Sr. Anne Bizalion
Co-Founder and Former Executive Director
Sister Anne Catherine Bizalion was the Executive Director and Co-Founder of SMHA. Sister Anne, a rural French Dominican nun, came to Louisiana in the mid-1950’s to work to end poverty in the state. She graduated as the first Catholic nun to obtain a Masters of Social work from Tulane University, after which she became the first professional social worker at the TB Annex of Lafayette Charity Hospital.
Before founding SMHA, Sister Anne directed a Headstart program and worked closely with Father A. J. McKnight, a Louisiana civil rights leader, to establish educational and cooperative programs. In 1969, she and Co-Founder Lorna Bourg developed SMHA to expose flawed systems in Louisiana and then to improve them. SMHA has taught rural sugar cane workers to help themselves through housing programs, health clinics and adult education.
Robbie is currently working on the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and is co-chair and co-director of the Ratify ERA NC alliance. She is the past director for Women's Health & Public Policy, YWCA Greater Baton Rouge. She is the recipient of the 2015 Anne Mackie Award, celebrating a lifetime contribution to advocacy on behalf of women, and received the "Portrait of Caring" award from 100 Black Men, for her work in advancing unity and diversity. She is former member and chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Louisiana Advisory Committee and Founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus of Louisiana. Robbie also served as the former director of Common Cause in Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. Portfolio of Service: Chair of the Board, Womens issues, racial equity, policy and Compensation Committee service.
President for SMHA
Lorna is co-founder of SMHA with 50 years’ experience organizing in Louisiana’s rural communities. She is a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Louisiana Advisory Committee, MacArthur Foundation Fellow, Fannie Mae Foundation James A. Johnson Fellow, a graduate of the J. F. Kennedy School of Government’s program for Senior Leaders at Harvard University and is featured in the Women Pioneers of the Louisiana Environmental Movement by Peggy Frankland (2013).
Lorna co-founded the Sustained Excellence Alliance Corporation Inc. (SEACorp), founded and serves as Treasurer of Southern Mutual Financial Services, Inc. (SMFS), the first rural not-for-profit U. S. Treasury-certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in rural Louisiana. She has extensive experience in investments, fund development, management, budgeting and rural community development program design and implementation.
Portfolio of Service: President, appoints Board committees, reports on alignment of programs and activities to core mission, responsible for corporate well-being and risk mitigation, serves as corporate voice to media.
Sr. Helen Vinton
Sr. Executive Officer / Life Quality Initiatives Senior Advisor for SMHA
Sr. Helen is a rural specialist with 40 years’ experience in rural organizing. She manages $2 million in program-related investments from religious congregations. She is a member of the Sisters of Providence, founding member of the 13-state Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG), former President of Rural Advancement Foundation, U.S.A., served as the national editor for Rural Catholic Life magazine and was the first woman named to the State Pesticide Commission in Louisiana.
She received the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award from the Diocese of Lafayette in 2015 and is featured in Women Pioneers of the Louisiana Environmental Movement by Peggy Frankland (2013).
Portfolio of Service: Expertise on environmental issues, fisher families and reports on conditions of fisheries and agriculture issues; maintains corporate relationships with Congregations of Women Religious, equity issues, Corporate Responsibility, Investment advisor, Nominations Committee service.
Senator Fred Mills
Fred is President and CEO of Farmers Merchants Bank & Trust and is a licensed pharmacist. He is a founding member and served as President of St. Martin Economic Development Authority and is vice-chairman of the St. Martin Hospital Board of Directors. Fred is Chair of the Senate Committee of Health and Welfare and also serves on committees for Local and Municipal Affairs, Judiciary C, Coastal Restoration and Flood Control and Women and Children. He is a recipient of the Louisiana Rural Health Association’s Rural Health Legislator of the Year award. Portfolio of Service: Briefs & advises SMHA on legislative and state administrative issues, expert on health care and institutional transitions as well as banking and economic development issues, connects the not-for-profit sector to public sector, public relations expertise. Shares his extraordinary talent and sense of humor while briefing the board on the most stressful of economic and policy issues.
Ashley is Executive Director of the Louisiana Power Coalition. She served as Louisiana Director of One Voice Louisiana, is former Vice President of Programs and Director of Policy Initiatives for Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation, (now Foundation for Louisiana). Ashley has worked as senior consultant for PolicyLink and past director of Grantmaking and Programs for the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. She was appointed to the Louisiana Board of Ethics in December 2012, was a 2005-2006 Fellow in the Emerging Leaders Program at Duke University and was appointed to the Foundation for the Mid South’s Commission to Build Philanthropy in 2003. Portfolio of Service: Experience and expertise in connecting families to policy-makers by enabling them to express their voice directly, expertise in building coalitions locally, regionally and nationally, advisor to SMHA on foundations and philanthropy.
Mag is a Lafayette attorney who has practiced corporate, commercial, real estate, and estate planning for over 26 years and served as financial and investment advisor to several bank clients. She is an active member of the Lafayette community and world traveler. Mag earned her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and Jurist Doctorate from the Tulane School of Law. Portfolio of Service: Mag leads SMHA’s Thought Leaders Initiative and is Chair of SMHA’s Cyber Security Board and Staff Cross Team.
Ashley is Executive Director of The Whitney Institute and Whitney Plantation Museum. She has served as Director of Museum Operations for Whitney and Assistant Director of the Denver Regional Museums. She is in the final stages for her PhD in justice history at LSU. She has a Master of Arts in Museum Studies and a Bachelor of Arts in History/Political Science. She has served on the Program Committee of the American Association for State and Local History and the 2019 Annual Meeting Host Committee of the American Alliance of Museums. Portfolio of Service: Ashley will help connect her historical work and the work of SMHA, particularly the economic work in rural communities. She thinks about the big picture and meticulous about finances and budget.
The Whitney Plantation educates the public about the history of slavery and its legacies and is the only plantation museum in Louisiana with an exclusive focus on the lives of enslaved people featuring memorials and restored buildings to enter the world of the Louisiana sugar plantation and to remember those who built and worked the property.
Juanita Alvarez Mainster
Juanita is Partnership Specialist at the US Census Bureau and a Community advocate improving social and economic conditions for farmworkers, immigrants and women. She has served on the Florida State Advisory Council for US Commission on Civil Rights and the Mexican American Arts and Cultural Council, Inc. Juanita Co-Founded Mujeres, Unidas, en Justicia, Educacion, y Reforma, Women, United in Justice, Education, and Reform. She assisted her husband, Executive Director of Centro Campesino-Farmworker Center, Inc. after Hurricane Andrew and continues working in disaster response. Portfolio of Service: Ask difficult and serious questions for Board, CEO and President and to inform Board and staff of the lives and realities of marginalized and isolated communities throughout 7 states in the Southern Region.
Judy is the past head of SMHA’s Directorate for Family and Community Development, former President of Rebuild Iberia, former board member of Episcopal Solomon House Outreach, former president of Louisiana Partners of the Americas and past board member of Louisiana Microenterprise Development. She also served as the director of the New Environmental Processes Research Team at the Rodale Research Center and as Executive Director of Programs Retraining Individuals through Mentoring and Education. Portfolio of Service: Not-for-profit experience and advice, creating sustainable communities through local fresh food production, small farming policy issues, Business Interruption and Disaster Recovery expertise, volunteer selection, orientation and deployment.
Chief Executive Officer
Hilda Daigre Curry, served the City of New Iberia as Mayor for 12 years until her retirement. A life-long resident of New Iberia, she received both her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from U.L. Lafayette and has 27 years’ experience as an educator, 16 of those years in administration. Prior to becoming Mayor, she was Dean of Students at South Louisiana Community College. During her 12 years as Mayor, she served on the Louisiana Municipal Association Board for 9 years. She served as an officer of the Board for 4 years and as President of the Louisiana Municipal Association during the 2012-13 fiscal years. Both her grandfather, Joseph A. Daigre, and father, J. Allen Daigre, served as the city’s Mayor and in the State Legislature.
Chief Operating Officer
Denise Galatas serves as Chief Operating Officer, Senior Executive Officer for Program Design and Development and Special Advisor to the President for Southern Mutual Help Association, Inc. Denise works closely with SMHA’s co-founding CEO Lorna Bourg on organizational management and program oversight, serves as the primary fund developer and is responsible for accountability reporting and managing relationships with many of SMHA’s funders and partners. With a BS in Business Administration and MS in Marketing, Denise’s “pre-SMHA” life includes experience in banking, performing arts management, management consulting, and adult vocational education. The mother of three and grandmother of four, Denise lives in St. Mary Parish with her fellow empty-nester husband Charles and former shelter cats Tangie and Midnight.
Assistant to the President
Ordodi brings to Southern Mutual more than 23 years’ non-profit experience and 20 years’ of upper- management experience in the private sector. She serves on SMHA’s Compliance, NeighborWorks and Business Interruptions and Recovery committees.
Financial Affairs Administrator for SMHA
Annette Jackson brings a high level of professionalism and more than 14 years of accounting and customer service experience to SMHA. She compiles information and prepares reports for the organization’s CPA and auditors and is in charge of all internal financial management procedures, grants and loans. Her work has produced clean annual audits each year for SMHA. She provides staff support for SMHA’s Audit Finance and Investment committees and serves on SMHA’s Compliance Committee.
Office Communications and Receptionist for SMHA
Broussard has served SMHA for more than four years as receptionist and staff support. She serves on the organization’s Compliance, NeighborWorks and Hospitality committees. She brings more than 20 years’ experience in office management, secretarial duties and related responsibilities. Broussard holds a secretarial certification from Delta School of Business.
Martha Moore is an Edward Jones Financial Advisor in New Iberia, Louisiana. She holds AAMS® (Accredited Asset Management Specialist) and ChFc® (Chartered Financial Consultant) designations, General Securities Representative (Series 7), State Registered Agent (Series 63), and Uniform Combined State Law Examination (Series 66) registrations, and an insurance license. Martha is married to Wayne Moore, and they have three children and four grandchildren.
Construction and Property Management Consultant
Marceaux has been with SMHA for over 20 years. Through his untiring dedication to SMHA’s clients he ahs assisted in the construction of over 260 new and rehabilitated units and has helped rural communities combat poverty through SMHA’s credit and debt counseling, financial literacy training, home-ownership counseling and skills transfer training. Marceaux provided hundreds of families and communities in Acadiana a better quality of life and was committed to SMHA’s Rural Recovery after the hurricanes of 2005 and 2008.
Board Member Emeritus
Ned is former Chancellor of North Orange County Community College District and former President of Fresno State Community College. He is founding president/chancellor of South Louisiana Community College, was named to the Board of the Louisiana Blue Ribbon Committee on Excellence and has served as chief executive officer for Council of Louisiana. Ned is also former president of Saddleback College in California and Vice-President of academic affairs for Los Angeles Southwest College. Portfolio of Service: Education, concept marketing, private, corporate and public administration expertise, Compensation Committee service.
Jacqueline Ducote & Associates, LLC
West End Development, Archives, and Research Consultant
Jacklyn Ducote and Associates, LLC, led by Jacklyn Ducote, is a Baton Rouge based company that specializes in the archiving of company records. Ducote was the first female President of the Public Affairs Research Council, the Executive Vice President of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, President of the Louisiana State University Manship School ALumni Board, and chair for the LSU Journalism Building renovation committee. Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Ducote led the Public Policy Leadership Institute for SMHA and the 11-parish Rural Recovery Response. She is a long-time advocate for improving open meeting and public record laws in Louisiana. Ducote is a two-time LSU graduate with a Bachelor’s in Journalism and a Master’s in Library Science.
Sr. Barbara Kraus
Former Board Member
Sr. Barbara serves as the director of Progressive Adult Education Program in Iberia Parish. She is former provincial councilor of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Barbara served as administrator of the Notre Dame of Dallas Special Education School and as principal Our Lady of Perpetual Help School. She has a Master of Arts in Special Education and remains committed to improving quality of life through education. Portfolio of Service: Education, gender equity, advisor and connector to Congregations of Women and Men Religious, International perspective on justice/equity issues.
SMFS Sr. Advisor & Originator for SMFS
Matthews provides more than 16 years non-profit experience with SMHA with program focus on housing and human development. She obtained her Louisiana Mortgage Loan Originators license in September 2012. She has worked with Southern Mutual Financial Services Inc. for more than 10 years managing more than $9 million in mortgage, consumer and business loans.
Matthews has significant experience with credit counseling, loan origination, loan packaging, mortgage financing and loan closing. She also has worked as a consultant with rural communities and school boards. She was a finalist for the McAuley Institute’s 2002 Courage in Community award.
Former President of SMFS
Scott Sutton retired from the banking industry in January 2015 following 41 years of experience. Mr. Sutton was Chief Operations Office at Home Bank, Lafayette, LA from August 2008 – January 2015. From August 1999 – August 2008, Mr. Sutton was Chief Operations Officer at Teche Federal Bank. Mr. Sutton was employed by IberiaBank from March 1992 – July 1999. At each of these institutions, he was a member of the Executive Management team.
Mr. Sutton’s responsibilities have included Data Processing, Deposit Services, Electronic Banking, Facilities, Loan Servicing, Human Resources, Investment Services, Marketing, Retail Operations, and Training. While at Home Bank, the bank grew from $450 million in assets to $1.2 billion which included acquisition of 3 financial institutions.
In addition to being actively involved in the United Way of Acadiana, the United Way of Iberia, Greater Iberia Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Sutton has been President of Southern Financial Services (SMFS), a subsidiary of Southern Mutual Help Association, since 2004.
Former Board Member and Treasurer - Now serving on the Audit Finance Committee
Karline is past Treasurer of SMHA and currently serves on the Audit Finance Committee. She is a professional chemist and Superfund specialist. She is the founder/organizer of several Louisiana women's advocacy groups and a past member of the national board for the American Association of University Women. Karline also organized and established the ERA Ratification Coalition in Louisiana. Portfolio of Service: Gender equity, Audit Finance Committee and Treasurer services, technical advisor on matters of science and national policy work.
Dr. Phebe Hayes
SMFS Board Member
Following a long and successful career as a professor of Communicative Disorders and as Dean of the College of General Studies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Dr. Hayes has emerged an important voice in Louisiana Studies and in the Acadiana community as the Founder and President of the Iberia African American Historical Society (IAAHS).
Dr. Hayes is a life-long resident of Iberia Parish, retired from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette after 26 years of service (Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders, 1986-2013; and Dean of the College of General Studies, 1998-2013). Dr. Hayes is the descendant of West African ancestors who were enslaved on local plantations. Four of her ancestral grandfathers fought for their freedom as members of the United States Colored Infantry (USCI) formerly, the Corps d’Afrique, and one fought as a member of the Union Navy. Following retirement, Dr. Hayes began researching the history of African Americans of Iberia Parish from the pre-colonial Louisiana period to the end of the Jim Crow era of segregation. What she found was exciting and demanded to be shared with the Iberia Parish community.
Read more about Dr. Hayes: Dr. Phebe Hayes
Life Quality PhD Candidate
Gabe Schwartzman is Life Quality PhD Candidate and is currently studying climate change and impact on cultures and place and will do pieces of work for SMHA. Schwartzman comes from a background in rural community and economic development. Recently, Schwartzman spent several months as a Fulbright Research Fellow in the Brazilian Amazon, studying sustainable economic development in forest communities. He has spent time working with the Center for Rural Strategies, USDA Rural Development, and was a Gardner Public Service Fellow with the Obama Whitehouse Rural Council in 2015. Originally from the Washington, DC, area, he studied Economic and Cultural Geography at the University of California, Berkeley, and spent time as a researcher and organizer in West Virginia. Schwartzman is also a contributing author with the Daily Yonder.
Marion Overton White
Former Board Chair
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Overton served as the SMHA Board Chair for over 40 years. He was a renowned civil rights attorney and served as counsel of record for the state chapter of the NAACP and several local chapters. He served as president of the Louisiana NAACP and also as a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Louisiana Advisory Committee. He has participated in several landmark legal decisions dealing with race relations in the state and regularly represents poor legal defendants, pro-bono, in cases of police brutality claims.
Sydnie Mae Durand
Former Board Member
Representative Sydnie Mae Maraist Durand - During the span of the 16 years in which she held her term in office in the Louisiana legislature, Sydnie Mae served as the Chairwoman of the House Health and Welfare Committee, and also served on the House Executive Committee. She was appointed to serve as a member of the Children, Families & Health Committee of the National Conference of State Legislature's Assembly on State Issues, the Fiscal Affairs & Government Operations Committee of the Southern Legislative Conference, Committee on Tax Structures, Women's Policy and Research Commission, Regional Trauma Patient Care Statewide System Task Force, Governor's Commission on Disability Affairs, and the Louisiana Women's Policy and Research Commission. She also served on the boards of Southern Mutual Help Association, Louisiana Interagency Task Force on the Future of Family Medicine, Task Force on the Future of Family Medicine, and the Acadiana Area Health Services District, as Chairman.
Helped Establish Rural LISC
"A rural advocate who helped strengthen the field of rural development through national efforts that produced local results is remembered as passionate, effective, and unrelenting."
Rosenblith helped establish Rural LISC at the Local Initiatives Support Organization in 1995. The program helps rural development groups tap public and private funding for local projects. Currently Rural LISC has 63 partner development organizations that work in 40 states and cover nearly 1,200 U.S. counties. Rural LISC has leveraged $3 billion in rural development investment in the past two decades, according to a fact sheet on the organization’s website.
Debt, Credit & Financial Literacy Instructor
Olga volunteered with Southern Mutual Help Organization 2004 - 2009. Her work had an estimated economic impact in Acadiana of nearly $30 million. She worked with over 300 low-income individuals and families pursuing homeownership. About fifty of those families achieved the goal of purchasing a home, moving an estimated $4,500,000 in affordable capital into rural communities in Acadiana.