Self-Help Federal Credit Union’s branch in Bakersfield, California soon will have a new neighbor. Plans are in the works to build the Dolores Huerta Peace and Justice Cultural Center on property now occupied by a Self-Help Federal branch. We will be building a new branch at this location as we prepare to welcome a wonderful asset to the community. The above illustration shows a design possibility for the future Center.
Bakersfield, California is a city of nearly half a million people located in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley. The wealth of natural resources the city is built on is evident to anyone who visits – Bakersfield is a hub of the agriculture and energy industries. Just as evident, however, are the stark inequalities that have shaped the area’s history and affect the daily lives of residents. The region has been at the beating heart of the labor movement for decades, most famously with the United Farm Workers, and Bakersfield continues to serve as the organizing home for the civil rights icon and UFW founder, Dolores Huerta, and the Dolores Huerta Foundation.
Self-Help gained the privilege of serving the residents of Bakersfield and surrounding Kern County when Kern Central Credit Union merged with Self-Help Federal Credit Union in 2010. Through this merger, Self-Help inherited not only an entire city block and a 9,000-square-foot branch in downtown Bakersfield, but also the legacy of the Farm Workers Credit Union, founded by Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez in 1963, which merged into Kern Central Credit Union. The relationship we have had the opportunity to build with Dolores Huerta and the Dolores Huerta Foundation has been one of Self-Help’s greatest assets in pursuing our mission in California.
The mostly-undeveloped city block where our branch is located is just to the north of downtown Bakersfield and is ripe for development. Our goal for the property has always been to facilitate a mission-aligned development that would serve our members and the broader community, so when we were approached by the Dolores Huerta Foundation with a proposal to honor Dolores’s legacy and create a permanent home for her foundation’s work in the Dolores Huerta Peace and Justice Cultural Center (“P&JCC”), we jumped at the opportunity to put our property to good use by making it the future home of the Center.
The mission of the Dolores Huerta Foundation is to inspire and organize communities to build volunteer organizations empowered to pursue social justice. With a new permanent home for the P&JCC, DHF will run programs such as these:
- Civic leadership development
- Grassroots organizer training
- Youth leadership development
- Community services for tens of thousands of local residents
The Center will also serve the community by providing meeting spaces for community organizers and non-profits, indoor and outdoor event spaces, a gallery to honor the historical contributions of people of color and social justice leaders in the San Joaquin Valley, and an early childhood education center. The P&JCC will serve as a destination for school groups and travelers to explore the rich history of San Joaquin Valley immigrants, farmworkers, and residents, and get immersed in the legacy and ongoing work of the movement.
To make this possible, the Dolores Huerta Foundation is conducting a capital campaign to raise funds. You can find out more about the Center and the campaign in this wonderful video:
In order to accommodate the P&JCC, SHFCU will construct a new branch on the site—which will enable us to serve our members more effectively and create additional space for a growing back-office team at the branch. Though the Credit Union and P&JCC will be separately owned and developed, we see the block as a comprehensive development designed to serve our members and the broader community, acknowledging that fair financial services are a critical piece of the puzzle in the pursuit of social and economic justice.
DHF was recently allocated $15 million in the California state budget for the Center and is continuing to fundraise to make the development a reality.
Left to right: Tim Quinn and Lily Steponaitis of Self-Help Federal CU and Dolores Huerta celebrate funds for the new Center allocated by the state of California.
For the latest information on the P&JCC and the Foundation’s work please visit the Dolores Huerta Foundation’s website.
* * *
Self-Help Federal Credit Union, an affiliate of Self-Help Credit Union, was chartered in 2008 to build a network of branches to serve working families and communities that face systemic barriers to building wealth. Now with over $1.6 billion in assets, Self-Help Federal is one of the fastest-growing community development financial institutions in the country, serving more than 89,000 members in 36 branches --19 in California, nine in Illinois, six in Washington, and two in Wisconsin.
Lily Steponaitis and Tim Quinn both serve as project managers for Self-Help Federal -- Lily on the executive staff and Tim on the real estate team.