The Antigonish Movement lives on and it is evident when you step into the Bergengren (Antigonish) branch of the East Coast Credit Union. As one looks around the lobby, you see the historical ties between the credit union and Coady International Institute.
A copy of Jim Lotz’s book The Humble Giant: Moses Coady, Canada’s Rural Revolutionary lies on a shelf just below a framed sketch entitled Kitchen Meeting. The sketch includes Coady and Father Jimmy Tompkins sitting with other leaders of the Antigonish Movement and highlights modern organizations from the area.
On one wall, a screen promotes the East Coast Credit Union’s YouTube channel and the documentary You Can Do It – The Story of the Antigonish Movement. On another wall hangs The Gift, a Fenn Martin relief sculpture, featuring a collection of past and present images from the co-operative movement. Martin’s relief weaves imagery from the early days of co-op organizing to the familiar present façade of the Bergengren Credit Union. Roy F. Bergengren and Father Jimmy Tompkins organized the first credit union rally in Little Dover in 1931 and helped form the first credit union in Nova Scotia a year later.
Tompkins, Coady, and the other leaders of the Movement worked with people across the Maritimes as they learned the value of economic co-operation. What began as search for solutions for chronic socio-economic problems, led to ordinary people in communities across Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada realizing that they could, in the words of Moses Coady, “use what they had to secure what they had not.”
The St. Francis Xavier University Extension Department was a vital part of this local community life offering leadership courses, short-term vocational and cultural education programs, technical and folk schools, library and publishing services, lectures, debates, and rural and town improvement competitions. News of the Antigonish Movement spread, and people from all over the world flocked to StFX to gain first-hand experience of the Movement’s methods with a view to applying them to their own communities.
The Gift, a Fenn Martin relief sculpture, featuring a collection of past and present images from the co-operative movement hangs in the Bergengren (Antigonish) branch of the East Coast Credit Union. The sculpture includes images of Msgr. Moses Coady and Father Jimmy Tompkins, who along with others inspired, the Antigonish Movement and Coady Institute.
This demand led to the establishment of Coady International Institute in 1959. Today, it still inspires by showing what is possible when people build their communities from the inside out.
It has also inspired the East Coast Credit Union to join the Coady Change Leader Campaign. The credit union has recently made a pledge of $25,000 further strengthening the bonds of its members to the Institute. Coady launched the campaign in May with the goal of raising $1 million locally over the course of five years to help support scholarships for both international and Canadian participants, including leaders from Indigenous and African Nova Scotian communities. Four months into the campaign, Coady has raised nearly $500,000 toward the goal.
Coady Institute Executive Director Gord Cunningham (centre) and Coady Change Leader Campaign Chair Shannon Stephenson (second from left) thank representative from the East Coast Credit Union for a $25,000 pledge to support the campaign. Sally Van de Wiel (left), Vice President Operations, East Coast Credit Union; Bill Timmons, Community Impact Committee Chair, East Coast Credit Union; Dan Fougere, Chair, East Coast Credit Union; Lynn O’Donnell, Fund Development Officer, Coady Institute; and Ken Shea, President and CEO, East Coast Credit Union were also on hand to show their support of Coady Institute.
“East Coast Credit Union is pleased to continue our longstanding relationship with the Coady Institute by our recent donation of $25,000 to their Coady Change Leader Program,” Bill Timmons, East Coast Credit Union Board of Directors, says.
“We have been supporters of Coady ever since it was founded, and we are happy to have the opportunity to share with these local and global leaders about credit unions and their co-operative principles.”
Coady Executive Director Gord Cunningham expressed his appreciation to the East Coast Credit Union board and members for the pledge.
“Thank you for your commitment to help bring local and global participants back to Coady. We all take pride in Coady’s history from the early days of the StFX Extension Department and the Antigonish Movement to the current activities of the Institute,” Cunningham says. “Adult education was incredibly important to the creation and proliferation of the cooperative movement in this part of the country and credit unions were one of the key vehicles that allowed ordinary people to drive their own local development”.
He notes that no other community in Canada has such a unique institute that combines education programs, community engagement, and partner capacity building internationally and locally.
“For 61 years, Antigonish has welcomed Coady participants from around the world creating a truly international community enriching our culture, our economics, and our community spirit,” Cunningham says.
During the Covid-19 pandemic Coady has had to reimagine, redesign, and rearrange its courses and ability to reach people. In 2021-22, the Institute is offering more than 16 online courses open to international and Canadian participants and the hope is to bring participants back to campus soon.
“Our online courses have thrived but it is not the same,” Cunningham says. “We want participants to experience life in our town, study local businesses like the East Coast Credit Union, talk to local entrepreneurs and businesspeople, and share together best practices, innovations, and friendships. In 2022, we will look forward to welcoming our Coady participants home and having local people supporting us through the Coady Change Leader Campaign will play a big part of accomplishing this goal.”
To join the East Coast Credit Union and others in supporting Coady Institute’s Coady Change Leader Campaign with a pledge go to coady.stfx.ca/support
Interested in taking a Coady online course? Learn more and apply at coady.stfx.ca/education