Federation honors memory of Ralph Paige at 51st Annual Meeting

Pictured above are members of the Paige family including wife Bernice, children Bernard and Kenyatta, and grandchildren on stage with Federation Executive Director, Cornelius Blanding and members of the organization’s Board of Directors. Cornelius Blanding discusses plans for cooperative development curriculum with President Quentin Ross of Alabama State University. The Rural Coalition presents a certificate to the Federation for its 50th anniversary. L to R Shirley Blakley, Chair of Federation Board, Lorette Picciano, Rural Coalition, John Zippert, Rural Coalition Board, Darnella Burkett Winston, Rural Coalition Board, Cornelius Blanding, Federation Executive Director.

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund honored the memory of its longtime Executive Director, Ralph Paige, who served for thirty yeas from 1985-2015. He was awarded its Estelle Witherspoon Lifetime Achievement Award on Thursday night in Birmingham at the beginning of the organization’s 51st Annual Meeting. Several speakers at the Witherspoon Award banquet celebrated Ralph Paige’s 46 years of work and service to the movement for Black farmers, land and cooperative development that symbolized the work of the Federation. Paige died recently at the age of 74. The Federation’s Board of Directors met Thursday in Birmingham to review the program direction and finances of the organization. Two Roundtables one on Cooperative Development and one on Land Retention were also held in Birmingham. Quentin Ross, President of Alabama State University in Montgomery spoke at the Cooperative Roundtable of working with the Federation on developing a cooperative education curriculum for the students at ASU including internships with Federation member cooperatives and credit unions. The Federation has developed and is in the process of implementing a similar program with Tuskegee University. On Friday and Saturday the site of the meeting shifted to the Federation’s Rural Training and Research Center, near Epes, in Sumter County, Alabama. Friday’s program began with a panel of USDA program experts who both presented about their programs and answered questions from the audience of farmers and landowners. There was a lively interchange of views between USDA officials and their farmer stakeholders on issues of agricultural tariffs, program eligibility, focusing resources on new and beginning farmers and other relevant issues. State Senator Hank Sanders of Selma was the lunchtime speaker and among other remarks, he introduced his daughter, Malika Sanders Fortier, who is running to fill his position as State Senator for District 24 in the November 6 General Election. Several members of Federation related cooperatives gave five-minute testimonials on their experience working with the Federation and how it helped to improve their family income and quality of life. There were more educational workshops, demonstration farm and forestry tours and a fish fry, food tasting, auction and entertainment to close out the Friday activities. The program on Saturday began with a Prayer Breakfast at which Rev. Wendell Paris, a past staff member, spoke to the importance of the work of the Federation and the “sacred ground” that the Federation’s training center was built upon. A business meeting, report from the Board and Cornelius Blanding, Executive Director, state caucus discussions on program needs and direction, and the awarding of five $1,000 scholarships to high school graduates for their first year of college rounded out the program.

Federation of Southern Cooperatives to hold 51st Annual Meeting on August 16-18

         Cornelius Blanding

Ralph Paige

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/ Land Assistance Fund will hold its 51st Annual Meeting next week, August 16-18, 2018. Cornelius Blanding, Federation Executive Director announced that the program would begin in Birmingham on Thursday August 16 at the Hyatt Regency Winfrey Hotel with a Board of Directors meeting, Co-op Roundtable and other events. At 7:00 PM the Federation will hold its 17th Annual Estelle Witherspoon Lifetime Achievement Award Dinner at the Hyatt Regency. “We have decided to honor Ralph Paige, our recently deceased Executive Director from 1985-2015, posthumously with this important award for 46 years of service to the organization,” said Blanding. Members of Ralph’s family including his wife Bernice and two children – Bernard and Kenyatta – will be present to accept the award, “In years past, we gave this honor to Civil Rights leaders and veterans, Hollywood actors, Congressmen and women who provided humanitarian service to the Black community and African-American farmers and landowners in particular. This year, we decided to honor one of our own.

Sadly we are doing this posthumously after his recent and untimely death,” said Blanding. On Friday and Saturday, August 17 and 18, 2018, the meeting shifts to the Federation’s Rural Training and Research Center, near Epes, Alabama in Sumter County. On Friday, we will hold a series of activities including exhibits, speakers, USDA panel discussions, workshops and agri-tours. Later that evening, enjoy the fun and excitement of the Auction and Fish Fry with live entertainment!   Saturday’s meeting will begin with a Prayer Breakfast and conclude with the Annual Business Meeting and State Caucus reports. A highlight of this meeting will be the announcement of a $10 million dollar Capital Campaign to reinvigorate the Federation’s Forty Acre and a Mule Endowment Fund to support the long term goals and programs of the Federation and main its unique Rural Training and Research Center near Epes, Alabama. For more information and to purchase tickets for the 51st. Annual Meeting contact: http://www.federation.coop or http://www.give2federation.org or call 404/765-0991 in Atlanta and 205/652-9676 in Epes, Alabama.

Federation steps in to halt Wendy Hills foreclosure

Minutes before the foreclosure sale on Thursday, December 15, 2016, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, PLBA Housing Development Corporation and USDA Rural Development reached an agreement to sell the Wendy Hills Subdivision to the Federation. This averted the foreclosure sale, which was set for 11:00 AM at the Courthouse steps in Livingston, Alabama.
“We are pleased that we were able to secure funding to purchase Wendy Hills and avoid a foreclosure which would have caused an untold upheaval to the forty families living there. We want to continue to provide good housing for very low income people in Sumter County, which was the original intent and goal of Wendy Hills,” said Cornelius Blanding, Federation Executive Director.
Blanding continued, “ We know that we have to make some improvements to the property to bring it up to standards. We plan to secure financing for these improvements to the apartments as well as insure fire protection and safety for all of the residents.” “Our first step will be to insure the continued rental assistance, currently provided by HUD, to allow very low income persons to live in north Sumter County,” said Blanding.
Commissioner Drusilla Jackson, whose district includes the Wendy Hills Subdivision, said “ I was very concerned about this foreclosure and its impact on people in my district. I pledge to assist the Federation in any way I can to help insure that the housing is maintained for the residents who live there.”
The Wendy Hills Subdivision currently consists of 36 units, 10 one bedroom, 8 two bedroom, 8 three bedroom and 10 four bedroom apartments; an office and a playground area. Fire destroyed four of the original 40 units and they have not been rebuilt.
Mayor Carrie Fulghum of the Town of Gainesville and General Manager of the PLBA Housing Development Corporation said “ I am glad, as mayor of the closest town, that we were able to prevent the foreclosure of Wendy Hills and I am dedicated to insuring a safe and secure place for the residents of the Subdivision.”
For more information contact: Cornelius Blanding at 404/765-0991 or cornelius@federation.coop