Building Equitable Institutions

For nearly five decades SMHA has removed barriers that impact peoples lives

Leveraging Private Sector Investment

SMHA has developed 1,421 new or renovated affordable homes in rural Louisiana

Supporting Rural Recovery

“Building Louisiana Better Than Before” – a simple tagline, but a bold idea

Protecting Our Lands And Waters

Lands & waters are foundation of community & essential to prosperity


Four New Homes in Teche Ridge

SMHA completes construction of four beautiful homes and park pavilion in Teche Ridge.

Former New Iberia Mayor Joins SMHA

Former New Iberia Mayor Hilda Curry joins SMHA’s team, encouraging the linkages between SMHA’s long history in community to policy makers, the business community and local government

SMHA Steps Up Again

SMHA mobilizes to help families impacted by flood recovery in the West End of New Iberia.

Teche Ridge’s First Showcase Home

SMHA completes construction of first “Showcase Home” in Teche Ridge, a $150 million master-planned Traditional Neighborhood Development.

Sister Helen Vinton Profiled

SMHA’s Sister Helen Vinton profiled as one of Acadiana’s Most Interesting People. Her motto: “One has to be true to oneself and claim your roots and grow from that.”

Spotlight on SMHA’s Lorna Bourg and Helen Vinton

SMHA’s Lorna Bourg and Helen Vinton featured in book “Pioneers of the Louisiana Environmental Movement.”

Mennonite Disaster Service Policy Transformation

The Mennonite Disaster Service – for the first time it its storied history – changed its internal policy to support the rehabilitation of homes in New Iberia’s West End as part of a “recovery” of blight due to neglect and unfair housing policy

BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Recovery

The Center for Rural Strategies chronicles the aftermath of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, and SMHA’s Rural Recovery impact in the short film “Anyone Home?”

In the Electric Mist

The New Iberia film premiere of the movie version of James Lee Burke’s book, In the Electric Mist, benefits SMHA.

SMFS Reaches $7.5 Million Mark

Southern Mutual Financial Services, the lending affiliate of SMHA, reached the $7.5 million mark in mortgage loans, consumer loans, and small business loans since its inception in 2009. SMFS and SMHA have built capital for lending through grants, partnerships with banking institutions, and federal dollars. SMFS works with its clients to get to know them and match their needs with appropriate funding sources, resulting in only one loan default in its nine years of operation.

SMHA’s Rural Recovery Report

SMHA’s Rural Recovery Report, covering the recovery work after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, showcases work of local artist Paul Schexnayder. The report provides an overview how the nearly $10 million dollars raised and thousands of volunteer hours were invested to “Build Louisiana Better Than Before".

SMHA joins NeighborWorks America network

SMHA becomes a chartered member of NeighborWorks America network in January and received $300,000 grant to support the development of Teche Ridge in July.

SMHA selected to become a member of NeighborWorks®

SMHA was selected through a competitive process to become a chartered member of NeighborWorks®, a national network of more than 235 nonprofit organizations operating in over 4,400 communities. Only two community development corporations in Louisiana have attained this status.

The Better is Coming

ContentIn the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Rita, the Center for Rural Strategies’ film “The Better is Coming” profiles SMHA’s rural recovery work. The film premiered at Rural LISC Seminar XVI.

West End Revitalization Begins

SMHA's West End Revitalization was begun following community charrettes which revealed citizens' aspirations to improve their 600-acre community. SMHA contracted expert land planner and architect Steve Oubre to work with residents to create a West End Master Plan, helped organize four resident association groups, and acquired funding and volunteer labor to renovate and construct homes. SMHA established financial literacy and homeownership education programs to facilitate residents' efforts in establishing family wealth.

Teche Ridge Groundbreaking

SMHA held a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of Teche Ridge, a 100-acre, $150,000,000 Traditional Neighborhood Development located just outside New Iberia. The residential/commercial community will offer beautiful new homes of all sizes and price ranges, including affordable housing.

Lorna Bourg a panelist in roundtable discussion before a U.S. Senate committee

President and Executive Director of SMHA Lorna Bourg, a panelist in a roundtable discussion before a U.S. Senate committee in Washington D.C., urged the adoption of her concept, the National Disaster Recovery Bond, to generate billions of dollars for long-term development and recovery from disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Hurricanes Rita & Katrina: Rural Recovery Response

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck coastal Louisiana one right after the other, leaving behind them an unprecedented path of destruction. SMHA began planning on the move, using the power of the story to institute a response unlike the government—efficient, free of burdensome paperwork, personalized, and helping people help themselves to restore families and small businesses to a state of normalcy.

Louisiana Association of Non-Profits' Seal of Excellence

SMHA earned Louisiana Association of Non-Profits' (LANO) Seal of Excellence.

IBERIABANK commits a $10,000,000

IBERIABANK committed a $10,000,000 investment in SMHA's work helping homeownership become a possibility for many low wealth rural families. This major investment was used to purchase home loans made by SMHA for the next five years.

First Ever Great Gator Race Fundraiser

The Great Gator Race was such a success that it became an annual tradition, with different attractions featured each year. All proceeds have helped SMHA in its mission to build healthy, prosperous rural communities.

SMHA Wins National Leadership award

SMHA was named the winner of the 2003 Leadership IS Award by the Independent Sector, a non-profit, nonpartisan coalition of more than 700 national organizations, foundations, and corporate philanthropy programs

SMFS Receives $400,000 Capital Investment

Southern Mutual Financial Services received a $400,000 capital investment matching award from the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Fund of the United States Treasury.

SMHA Hosts National Rural LISC Conference

SMHA hosted the national Rural LISC conference, bringing nearly 300 non-profit practitioners to southern Louisiana. Conference attendees traveled through the area, learning about the challenges and successes of SMHA's work with low-income housing, family fishers, and environmental asset building.

Genesis of Southern Mutual Financial Services, Inc.

SMHA announced the creation of SMFS, and its plans to incorporate as a community development financial institution (CDFI.) SMFS provides affordable capital and development services to marginalized rural families to improve the quality of their lives. IBERIABANK kicked off a $3 million capital campaign with a $200,000 donation to the proposed CDFI.

Rural Home Loan Partnership

SMHA was selected as one of nine community development organizations in the nation to pilot the Rural Home Loan Partnership (RHLP), a multi-million dollar initiative for revitalizing rural America. the RHLP creates opportunities for low-wealth families to own their own homes.

SMHA Begins Work With Fisher Families

The Louisiana State Legislature passed Bill #1316, nearly shutting down thousands of traditional commercial fishing businesses overnight. SMHA saw the importance of the fishers' unique cultural heritage, their role as stewards of Louisiana's coastal waterways and marshes, and their impact in the state's $2 billion seafood industry and took action working with fishers to maintain their rich culture.

From Plantation Colonies to Prosperous Communities

SMHA developed "From Plantation Colonies to Prosperous Communities," an economic and human development action plan for ten rural communities, as a result of 56 meetings with community leaders, local businesses, school officials, local and state government agencies, and other non-profits.

Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group

Family sugar cane farmers faced rising costs and mounting debts, depletion of soil, and contamination of Louisiana waterways. SMHA co-founded the 13-state Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group to redirect land grant resources and USDA policy to support sustainable agriculture and family farmers.

Sr. Helen Vinton Named to State Pesticides Commission

SMHA staff member, Sister Helen Vinton, was appointed as the first woman to the State Pesticides Commission. Her work provided a forum for citizens to organize around pesticide exposure and alternative methods. The publicity led to pressure from the EPA for the enforcement of Federal pesticide laws in Louisiana.

Plantation Portraits: Women of the Louisiana Cane Fields

SMHA published Plantation Portraits: Women of the Louisiana Cane Fields in celebration of the courage and strength of women farm workers and their contribution to the South Louisiana community.

Cleveland Benjamin's Dead!

The plight of sugar cane workers and SMHA's determination to help the workers "help themselves," was the topic of Patsy Sims' book, Cleveland Benjamin's Dead! A Struggle for Dignity in Louisiana's Cane Country.

US Supreme Court Win

SMHA won a favorable US Supreme Court decision in the "Itinerant Workers Law" case. SMHA filed suit against the State of Louisiana and St. Mary Parish for enacting a worker registration ordinance which required all persons applying for a job to be photographed and fingerprinted, answer personal questions, and pay $10 for the privilege. The Court ruled the ordinance unconstitutional and ordered compensation.

A National Audience

CBS broadcast a "60 Minutes" documentary with Morley Safer on the work of SMHA on sugar cane plantations, revealing the conditions of thousands of field workers "behind the cane curtain" to a national audience.


SMHA started the first Plantation Adult Education Program. This program is still in existence today as PEPI (Progressive Education Program), located in New Iberia.

Landmark Decision: Freeman vs. Butz

Federal District court issued a landmark decision in the Freeman vs. Butz case where the wages of farm workers were illegally frozen by Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz. Two SMHA farm worker board members filed and won a class action suit for collection of back wages. As the Court-appointed inspector, SMHA examined all the growers' books to determine the amount owed to the workers. The Court froze over 60 million dollars in grower subsidy payments and awarded plantation field workers over one million dollars in back wages.

Forging a Path to Adult Edu. and Job Training

SMHA started adult basic education and job training with culturally adapted materials for plantation workers.

The First Community Development Block Grant

SMHA began self-help, low-income housing efforts, including the first neighborhood association called "Rabbit Hill" in Abbeville, Louisiana. From SMHA's successful renovation of 30 homes, Abbeville obtained the first Community Development Block Grant for rural communities, soon duplicated in dozens of other rural communities in Louisiana.

Founding an Agent of Change

A multiplicity of factors were at the origin of Southern Mutual Help Association in the Summer of 1969. These factors include the various oppressive systems of the time and the personal experiences of each founder. SMHA won a decision from a three-judge federal panel to "free association" with farm workers as guaranteed by the US Constitution.



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