From the President, Linda Jones:
As I move into my first duly elected role as President of our beloved co-op, I want to celebrate with pride and gratitude all the work that our fellow cooperators have done to get us to this place and time. Because of their faithful work we have grown our co-op to eighty-seven members, created a very sturdy structure and process for getting our work done effectively by empowering our active volunteers,promoted our co-op all around the city, built our community on trust and transparency, and are moving ever closer to opening our co-op grocery store.
From the first time I voiced the idea of bringing a co-op grocery store to central Grand Rapids, like minded and energetic folks have resonated with the idea and gathered together. Deborah Eid was there when I spoke up about a food co-op at a meeting of neighborhood organizers and if she hadn’t agreed that Grand Rapids needed such a store, I doubt that the idea would have gone any farther. We have been co-founders together in every sense of the word, sharing ideas, training, connections, and wisdom from our life experiences. I am sure our co-op is as vibrant as it is today because it was founded on this synergy which then spread to everyone else who got involved.
We started by having a series of study sessions to learn what a cooperative is and how food co-ops are built. One of our early attenders was Catherine Gage who has been on the Development Circle ever since and is now on the Top Circle. She has been our secretary, keeping excellent records of our meetings, keeping us all reminded of our to do lists, and doing important research. She has also led the Membership Circle.
Crystal LeCoy was with us from the earliest days and offered her experience starting a business from the ground up. She is now in Detroit doing great things there.
Chantele Longcore joined us and got our checking account and paypal accounts set up and made important contacts for us in the business world. She also hosted many circle meetings at her home. Billy Bennett got our incorporation papers filed with the state. Wojtek Nocon contributed his business experience. Mychelle O’dell attended anti-racism training with Deborah and I and helped clarify our structure and processes. Stephen Wooden presented our pitch to 5x5 night. Dylan Devries and Quinn Vollink were our foodies and helped develop our vision, mission and aims. Quinn is responsible for the phrase, “community awesomeness.” Ben Gibney took notes early on. Steve Arnouts contributed his knowledge of organic farming and did important outreach to the environmentalists in our city. He is responsible for the seed pencils we give out. Cathy and Bruce Odom offered their house for our meetings and hosted an early house party. Kim Crosby has been involved consistently since the spring of 2016 and has served on the membership circle offering her deep knowledge of the city and healthy eating.
Brian Smith also got involved in the spring of 2016 and developed our accounting system, served as our treasurer and led the Finance Circle. He also helped reach out to our city’s Black organizations and spent time volunteering with People’s Food Co-op in Kalamazoo to get a better idea of how grocery stores are run as well as volunteering at Seeds of Promise. His guidance and experience have been extremely valuable to guide us through our development phase. He continues to serve as our bookkeeper and is a member of the Finance Circle.
Nancie Jenner joined us in the fall of 2016 and developed our wonderful logo and produced all of our marketing materials and swag. She headed the Outreach Circle and produced our newsletter and monitored our website and Facebook page. She hosted our first house party as well as many circle meetings where we ate like royalty. Nancy is also still serving on our Top Circle.
Jason Herlands joined us in the spring of 2017. He has worked with the Outreach Circle, scheduling tabling events, setting them up, getting the volunteers, speaking at events and sharing his knowledge about communication. Jason is also still serving on our Top Circle.
Other folks have consistently served on our action circles.
Whitney Potter joined us in the summer of 2017. She is active on the Finance and Diversity Circles and has shared her knowledge of the food industry and hosting skills.
Carol Carr was active on the Finance Circle and offered great experience with grant writing, finance and writing bylaws.
John Hanson and his crew produced a wonderful promotional video for us and highlighted us at his Lamplighter festival.
Loren and Katie Sturris and Suz Edwards were stalwart outreach volunteers helping to table at many community events and showing up whenever they were needed.
Rachel Potter has been active on the Membership Circle and is leading our book group.
These are our wonderful founding volunteers, folks! I know you join me in thanking them all for their commitment to our vision, their work achieving our mission and aims, and their heart for our community. Since our co-op is strong and vibrant because of its member/owners, I can hardly wait to meet all the new member/owners who will be drawn to our project in the coming years and to welcome them into our growing community of cooperation, building this important institution in the life of our city. If you are feeling the call to get involved, we have new volunteer orientations every third Tuesday at 6:30 pm at Fountain Street Church, or simply send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to seeing you there!