The Winston County Self Help Cooperative (Louisville, Ms) organized 1985 under the auspices of Mississippi Association and Federation of Southern Cooperatives. The co-op received charter status from Mississippi’s Secretary of State Office October 1988. Larry Miller of Beat-Four Cooperative (Macon, Ms) and Ben Burkett State Director of Mississippi Association of Cooperatives worked fervently to help establish Winston County Self Help Cooperative .“We organized (WCSHC) to assist small farmers and landowners to sell and buy in bulk according to founding members Omerio Dotson. Small family farmers were under-seize due to un-favorable financial conditions and USDA’s lack of interest to serve black farmers. We needed an outlet to earn more income from our natural resources and increase sustainability in rural Winston County. Therefore, Winston County Self Help Cooperative designed a vehicle for small farmers and landowners to work collectively and overcome agriculture’s adversities.” Columbus McReynolds served as president from 1985-1992 and created a formidable team of farmers and landowners. WCSHC’s membership consisted of 12 members from Winston, Choctaw and Oktibbeha Counties and convened on first Thursday at East Central Federal Union Building on highway 397. WCSHC members received animals through Heifers International to enhance and improve cattle genetics…pigs to start swine operations. Additionally, WCSHC received funds through Self-Development of People (a ministry Of the Presbyterian Church USA) to erect a feed grinding meal. Columbus McReynolds engineered a launching pad for small farmers and landowners in a mist of uncertainties, therefore, WCSHC membership appreciates Columbus’ efforts and time to help save small family farms”.
WCSHC experienced a reincarnation in 1997 with Frank Taylor, as president and Gus Townes mentor. WCSHC’s membership had dwindled to four members; however, Omerio & Dee Dotson, Mary Hannah and Bobby Hardin’s founding members’ commitment to rejuvenate WCSHC’s mission of assisting small farmers and landowners came to fruition. WCSHC’s membership adopted a mantra of “Helping Saving Rural America” to empower members with inspiration and motivation to become better stewards of their natural resources. Members focused their energies on accessing services from USDA and non-profit organizations to stimulate growth in farm incomes and strengthen family relationships. Mary Hannah founding members stated, “We needed an innovated strategy of attracting energetic members and incite thought provoking ideals to broaden WCSHC’s community image. We formulated a four-point plan of action…finance, health, housing, and youth. This plan of action-ignited discourse among some members because they only wanted to focus on agriculture related issues; and not embraces the holistic approach of surviving in rural America. However, the leadership galvanized and steamed forward on housing, health, finance, and developed a youth component to personify WCSHC’s efforts of progressing in a new direction. Today, “WCSHC’s membership consists of 56 vibrant members from three surrounding counties”. We collaborate with USDA agency & non-profit organizations and deliver relevant information in a timely manner to generate revenue for small farmers. We believe Winston County Self Help Cooperative and Youth Group will exist into perpetuity with its mission of helping save rural America”.
Finance: The co-op sponsored several financial workshops in conjunction with FDIC and the co-op assisted several members and individuals with major land purchases.
Health: The co-op sponsored multiple health seminars to raise awareness of hypertension, diabetic and other related health issues with assistance from the local health department, private nurses, and Wal-Mart.
Housing: The co-op sponsored several homebuyers and foreclosure workshops. We also assisted 25 families with home-ownership and provided post purchase education information such as taxes, insurance and un-expected expenses.
Youth Component: The youth organized in 2004 with 25 young people making a difference in Winston County. The youth are involved in various activities connecting with the natural resources. In addition, their garden project is a crown jewel of numerous activities, which provides fresh vegetables and stimulates interest reducing man’s environmental footprint.