Listening to a certified genius, talking can be mind-boggling — unless the listener considers the source. To have “the mind of Christ” is to see all things, believe all things are possible because of belief in the One who created all things. Lorna Bourg was the first in Louisiana to be recognized as a MacArthur Fellow, “genius award” in 1992. She also was one of two Sisters of faith that founded Southern Mutual Help Association Inc. 50 years ago.

“Over our past century of work locally, nationally and internationally, SMHA has removed barriers that hindered the prosperity of communities. The SMHA team started the first medical and dental clinic in Louisiana. Now 50 years later, there are over 200 such units,” said Lorna Bourg, president CEO of Southern Mutual Help Association Inc.

Helping others reach their full potential is primary in the work of the nonprofit investment-building community-minded organization governed by a board of directors with advisors who see and share a vision greater than themselves. Among the national leaders affiliated with SMHA are Louisiana Speaker of the House Taylor Barras through his work at IberiaBank, Senator Fred Mills and former Mayor Hilda Curry.

Sr. Helen Vinton, the other founder and innovative thinker, teamed with Jackie Judice of North Side Plantation in the early years of the organization to help transform how sugar cane is harvested. She believed in leaving the organics to be incorporated into the soil, thus reducing the burning which impacted area resident’s health.

SMHA is known nationally for an innovative approach to hurricane disaster recovery along Louisiana’s coastline, raising $10.5 Million in non-government money to restore 1,064 homes, businesses and churches in 120 rural coastal communities.

At the request of IberiaBank’s and Community 1st Bank’s leadership, SMHA is investing $150 Million in Teche Ridge Development. Designed by Steve Oubre and mirrored after Sugar Mill Pond, Clinton Shepherd with NAI Later & Blum will be at the Sept. 26 Kiwanis luncheon at noon to dispel misinformation and plans for commercial development. The SMHA team removed all the legal and regulatory barriers to building a TND in Iberia Parish. When completed, Teche Ridge, LLC will have over a half billion dollar impact in the community.

“That’s what we do — remove barriers to community prosperity through investment and partnerships,” Bourg said after the Aug. 29 lunch presentation at the New Iberia Kiwanis meeting.

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