The Rev. Ivory Simmons was dedicated to poor, farmworkers


Rev. Ivory Simmons

Source: Democrat and Chronicle - Stuart Mitchell (02-09-06)

My dear friend, the Rev. Ivory Simmons, who lived from Dec. 31, 1933, to June 1, 2002, was a minister, social activist and civil rights advocate.

He worked tirelessly for his entire life on behalf of the dispossessed.

In 1955 when he moved from Florida to Wayne County to work on area farms, he almost immediately began to serve in his community.

Through his unassuming leadership, he significantly improved living and working conditions for low-income African Americans and farmworkers. He was a cherished and valuable volunteer in many community service organizations.

He was founder of Lyons Neighbors, which helped find better housing. He directed a NAACP special project to advocate for farmworkers. He was vice president of the Wayne County chapter of NAACP, chairperson of the Wayne County Rural Ministry, founder and board member of Greater Wayne Homes, Inc., and was a board member of Finger Lakes Regional Health Council, the Wayne County Comprehensive Health Program, the Legal Aid Society, the Genesee Regional Planning Board and Rural Opportunities, Inc.

In 1969, the Rev. Simmons left the security of his union job at Garlock and founded a self-help housing program for farmworkers, Community Action for Self Help Inc. CASH helped farmworkers work together to build their own homes.

More than 40 houses were built between 1969 and 1974. CASH continues to work on housing issues today, more than 37 years later. He, along with Frank and Bette Leurssen, developed a pallet-making business (LSW Industries) that eventually employed more than 60 underemployed farmworkers and other rural poor.

In addition to his extensive community work, he pastored churches in Lyons and Sodus.

He was inducted into the ROI Advocate Hall of Fame in 1987 and received the coveted Charles Terrell Lunsford Distinguished Community Service Award from the Urban League of Rochester in 1992.

The Rev. Simmons was a dignified, hard-working and powerful drum major for social justice, civil rights and human dignity for all people.

Mitchell is president/CEO of Rural Opportunities Inc.

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