“Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.”
These were among Dr. Martin Luther King’s last public words, included in his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech delivered in Memphis the day before he was assassinated. In that address, Dr. King saw the problems of a “messed up world” and “sick” nation clearly. He was a harsh critic of racism and especially the entrenched systems that perpetuate racism. But he never lost hope that we as individuals and as a nation can do better.
The national holiday that celebrates Dr. King’s life and legacy is fittingly designated as a day of service. As we prepare to celebrate the MLK holiday, we join his call to work for justice and find ways to serve while carrying hope. To honor this day, we lift up just a few of our staff members who take time to volunteer in their communities:
Elizabeth Benson - Lending Extra Hands in Schools
When her friend organized a group of parents to provide health care resources for Durham children, Elizabeth Benson raised her hand. The City of Medicine/DPS Volunteer Medical Corps (VMC) was formed in 2020 to help relieve public school teachers and staff dealing with extra burdens imposed by the pandemic. Elizabeth has worked shifts welcoming kids back to school with temperature screening and directing traffic at a COVID vaccination site. Elizabeth serves as a Lending Associate on our SBA 504 team.
Kenneth Bradley - Promoting a Marketplace of Emerging Entrepreneurs
Kenneth Bradley serves as Self-Help’s Universal Banker in our Antrim branch in Greenville, South Carolina, but he also made a jolly good Santa Claus during the Christmas season. Wearing a splendid Santa outfit, he distributed stockings during the Third Thursday Market at Poe West, a mixed-use development. The market is an initiative of Village Launch, which has a mission of equipping under-resourced entrepreneurs to succeed. The vendors of the market are alums of Village Launch’s small business mentor program aimed at entrepreneurs of color.
Carl Brown - Offering Time and Talent as a Marketer, Mentor and Organizer
Carl Brown donates his time and boundless energy in many ways, including sharing his marketing expertise. He donates digital marketing services to two Durham organizations, Made in Durham and We Care We Share Community Enrichment Programs Inc. He also has co-hosted and managed the annual ABG Fun Run for Life to raise money for Black women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Carl, who serves on the executive team at Self-Help, also volunteers as a football coach and youth mentor at West Cary Middle School, pictured above.
Peggy Chiprez - Encouraging First-Generation High School Graduates
Peggy Chiprez, left, celebrates with a student from Napa Valley High School.
Peggy Chiprez stays very busy as Self-Help Federal Credit Union’s branch manager in Napa, California, but she also makes time for wider service in the community. As an alum of Napa High School, Peggy has been active in the school’s program to “Adopt a Senior,” focusing on students who will be the first in their families to graduate from high school and pursue higher education. Last year Peggy was named as a “Napa Valley Helping Hero” honoree, and she received a certificate from Congressman Mike Thompson in recognition for her work serving the community.
Jonathan Leysath - Faith and Service in Action
Jonathan Leysath (shown in a red plaid shirt above) serves as a minister as well as our JAX Metro/Self-Help Credit Union Business Development Branch Manager in Jacksonville, Florida, and he has a special gift for combining his faith with hands-on work. On any given day you might find him preaching at the Trinity Rescue Men’s Shelter. Or maybe volunteering with Cup of Love Ministry, serving people who are unsheltered. Or on another day cleaning up trash in the community with the 21st Men. He has also conducted a financial coaching class with Men of Loyalty Youth Boxing.
Kerri Smith and Sha Hunter: Teaming up to Brighten a Child’s Day
Kerri Smith (left above) and Sha Hunter (right) have a lot of experience working with members in Greenville, South Carolina who are seeking healthy finances, and they also care about children’s health. As one of their volunteer projects last year, Kerri and Sha delivered snacks to the Prisma Health Children’s Hospital, which treats kids who have cancer. They also delivered funny posters based on jokes collected from the larger team of Self-Help staffers in Greenville. Kerri serves as City Executive and Sha is Branch Manager for the Woodruff Road, Garlington Road and Aviation branches in Greenville.
Pat Walker - Serving Needs Close to Home
Pat, shown in the blue robe, with members of the Human Dignity Club at the St. Mark AME Zion Church in Durham.
For Pat Walker, caring for people in her community is simply part of who she is. She participates in a variety of volunteer projects through an informal but very strong network of people committed to service. For example, she is a faithful part of a group called Mission Payoff, which serves people who are homebound because of their age or illness. The Mission Payoff team, identifying needs by word-of-mouth, helps folks by providing companionship, sending cards, buying groceries and more. Other groups Pat volunteers with include a prison ministry, the Aids Alliance of Raleigh, and the Human Dignity Club, a church-based program that provides food and clothing to people without housing.
Derek Williams: Focusing on Shelter and Boosting Financial Education
Derek Williams, Capital Development Associate on our Development, Policy & Impact team, serves on the board of directors and the finance committee for Housing for New Hope (HNH), based in Durham, NC. HNH’s mission is “to end homelessness one valuable person at a time.” HNH’s programs include street outreach, housing location, rapid rehousing and more. Derek also volunteers as an instructor for the Youth Education for Savings Consortium (YES Consortium), teaching youth about saving, budgeting and investing.
Celebrating the Long Life of a Member
Finally, we want to share some sad news about a long-time member who has inspired us. As we were preparing this post, we received word that Mr. Lee Curry passed away at age 102. We highlighted Mr. Curry in this space last spring, when he was *only* 101 years old, still healthy and helping his neighbors with their gardening.
Mr. Curry in 2015, helping a neighbor with her garden. Photo: DNAinfo/Andrea V. Watson.
April Snow, Area Manager for Seaway, a division of Self-Help Federal Credit Union in Chicago, knew Mr. Curry well and often called to check on him. She recalls that Mr. Curry had no special secret for living a long life, but that he suggested “we take walks and love everyone and everything.” He talked about “love and work” as the keys to a good life.
Mr. Curry stayed busy serving others until the very end. May we remember him on this MLK Day as we strive to serve others, carry hope and take actions for justice.
Photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Minnesota Historical Society - https://www.flickr.com/photos/minnesotahistoricalsociety/5355384180/sizes/o/in/photostream/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19183908