Friday, February 13, 2009

Bank Southern.

I don’t watch a lot of old movies (or movies in general, for that matter), so I saw It's a Wonderful Life for the first time fairly recently. Many of you already know the story - a guardian angel shows a depressed and suicidal banker how much worse his community would have been without him and helps him value his life and the positive difference he makes in the lives of others. I remember being struck by the beneficial role the bank played in the small town. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but the bank was a community development financial institution.

When my family and I decided to move to Arkansas (where I grew up), I took the opportunity to look for a position that made my interest in and commitment to social justice an asset. I consider it a blessing that I found meaningful work at Southern Bancorp.

Southern Bancorp is a community development financial institution and is the largest rural development bank in the United States. Southern channels profits from three community banks (with more than 40 locations) into three nonprofit affiliates. The nonprofits work with residents in the bank service areas to help them improve their communities. This model of social entrepreneurship is making a real difference for the people in the communities we work in, some of which rank among the poorest in the nation.

Southern excites me for two main reasons. First, our work focuses on rural areas in southern Arkansas and the Delta region of Arkansas and Mississippi. Because my mom is from southern Arkansas and my dad is from the Delta, I have family all over the region we serve. So it’s personal. More importantly, Southern is implementing an ambitious and innovative community development model that is proving to be effective, scalable, and reproducible. Southern’s rural hub development strategy is revitalizing communities by educating children, helping their parents find jobs and homes, and creating a myriad of good reasons for people to stay in or return to the towns they love. It’s helping turn dying towns into vibrant places to live.

If this work and these ideas inspire you as they do me, here’s how you can get involved:

* Open an account at a Southern bank branch in your area. By banking at Southern you’ll be supporting your community.

* Open a Certificate of Deposit at Southern. Your FDIC-insured investment will earn interest and support community development work. You can even choose to donate a portion of your interest earnings to the Southern nonprofits.

* Donate to Southern’s direct service nonprofit, Southern Good Faith Fund. Remember, your contribution is tax deductible.

* Search the web through GoodSearch and select Southern Good Faith Fund as your nonprofit. Every search generates a donation to Southern, so search often.

* Shop online through GoodShop for Southern Good Faith Fund. Every purchase results in a donation to Southern.

* Learn more about Southern. Start by perusing the website. You can also watch Delta Dreams. This 2007 documentary focuses on Helena-West Helena, Arkansas, where Southern first implemented its innovative community development strategy. And you may want to read Doing Development in Arkansas for an early history of Southern. It's important to note that Southern's development model has been significantly refined in the years since this book. It is this new strategy that is creating the real results we are seeing now.

*Spread the word. If you are from Southern Arkansas or the Delta or know someone who is, let them know about the many ways to support or participate in Southern’s community development work.

Isn't it nice to read a good story about a bank? Especially these days. Now you know why I'm proud to bank Southern.

” Just a minute — just a minute. Now, hold on, Mr. Potter. You're right when you say my father was no business man. I know that. Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante Building and Loan, I'll never know. But neither you nor anybody else can say anything against his character, because his whole life was...Why, in the twenty-five years since he and Uncle Billy started this thing, he never once thought of himself. Isn't that right, Uncle Billy? He didn't save enough money to send Harry to school, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter. And what's wrong with that? Why...Here, you're all businessmen here. Doesn't it make them better citizens? Doesn't it make them better customers? said...What'd you say just a minute ago?...They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait! Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they're so old and broken-down that they...Do you know how long it takes a working man to save five thousand dollars? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about...they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him, but to you, a warped frustrated old man, they're cattle. Well, in my book he died a much richer man than you'll ever be! - George Bailey, It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)


brooke said...

Very cool post!

maria said...

This is so impressive!

Maybe you should contact President Obama's team and let them now
"How it's done".


Karama said...

Thanks, Brooke! Thanks, Maria! I agree this approach is something that can be used in lots of other places.

Thanks for reading, and please come back again soon!