I am so happy to be working with people from so many walks of life to build our food co-op together. I have gotten to really know and count as friends people from different ethnic backgrounds, economic backgrounds, faith backgrounds, and geographic locations.
I would have never met Eddie Jenkins, Jr. who has had an amazing life working in a chemical plant in Muskegon, serving as a union leader there, working for the city of Muskegon to help nourish Black-owned businesses, serving as a leader at Brown-Hutcherson Ministries, and now serving on our co-op's Top Circle.
I would have never met Deborah Eid who grew up shopping at food co-ops in Minneapolis, raised three kids the same ages as mine, performed in a family folk music band, worked with unions in Minneapolis and Chicago, and somewhere along the way learned Spanish and Portuguese. She helped me found our food co-op.
I would have never met Ayanfe Free who lived most of her life in the south, attended a historic Black college, learned midwifery and other healing arts, makes amazing copper jewelry, and is now managing the New City Farm and working as an urban gardener and young people mentor there. She also serves on our Top Circle as our facilitator.
I would never have met Rochella Robinson who raised three kids on her own, relied on food pantries when they were young, and now works full time at Trinity Health as well as a second job at Marshalls, and still finds time to lead our Outreach circle with energy and grace.
Our co-op brings together so many people who would have never met each other because they live in different parts of town, attend different places of worship, move in different circles. I ask you, what other business enterprise can do this kind of city-wide community building? What other group is actively trying to bring people together from all walks of life to build a business that meets our needs and the needs for sustainable food in our region? Only co-ops can do this! What a noble mission we have.
Our owners include city and county leaders including City Commissioners Rev. Nathaniel Moody, and Ruth Kelly. County Commissioners Stephen Wooden and Monica Sparks.
We have business owners who are also co-op owners including Ryan Knapp, cofounder of Madcap Coffee, Steve Wiltjer, owner of the Lantern Coffee Bar and Lounge, Larry Hamlet, owner of Pure Hot Yoga.
We have affordable housing developers Ryan Schmidt (ICCF), Stephanie Gingerich (LINCUP), and Stephen Wooden (Dwelling Place) as co-owners of the co-op.
We have co-op owners who are women who sing at the bedside when people are close to dying who are members of the Grand Rapids Threshold Choir, Betty Kronemeyer, Marcia Good, Stephanie Gingerich, Ginny Kelling and Rebecca Kirk.
We have people of all ages, income levels, working, raising families, going to school, paying bills and serving their community in many ways and all of them are co-owners of this food co-op.
When you join the co-op, you are joining an amazing group of people and you will get to know people you would never have met any other way. We look forward to welcoming you to our amazing and wide-ranging community.
We welcome our newest board members: Ayanfe Free, Eddie Jenkins, Jr., Tony Moayyer and Scott Urbanowski! They were recently elected at our annual meeting in November. We also bid a fond farewell to our board members who are leaving service: Deborah Eid, Carrie Liebrock, and Michael Ludwig.
Deborah has served on our board since the very beginning. She and I met at a meeting of neighborhood organizers and when I mentioned that Grand Rapids needed a food co-op, she agreed. After guiding us through our founding, incorporation, bylaw writing, and countless conference calls, meetings, parties and cozy meals, she is moving off the board to devote time to her own counseling business. She'll still be involved with the co-op, just not as actively.
Michael and Carrie were a delight to work with this past year. Michael took great care of the website and our newsletter and other outreach activities like brewpub meet-ups and other social events. Carrie got our volunteers trained and involved in tabling events and house parties and made sure the materials were there when they were spreading the word about our co-op.
My deepest gratitude to you all for your love for the co-op and your steadfast service to our vision!
I'm looking forward to getting to know our new board members and finding out what skills, gifts and talents they will bring to our community. You can read more about them on our Meet the Board page.
This is a milestone in our development. Our second board elections have been held and we have 50% new board members. That is the signal of a healthy organization where new people are welcomed into positions of leadership. May we all grow together as leaders of this exciting co-op in wisdom and grace. And we hope that you will become an active part of this co-op in the way that works best for you. We look forward to working with you to build our store!
“Many Hands Build Strong Co-ops”
Happy summer to you all! I’ve been traveling quite a bit this summer and I’ve been able to see some pretty wonderful food co-ops along the way. Each co-op has its own character, vibe and challenges. Weaver Street Market in Carrboro, North Carolina has this amazing outdoor eating area under the most magnificent oak trees I’ve ever seen. Durham Food Co-op is so welcoming with a diverse staff that beautifully reflects its surrounding neighborhoods. These experiences help build our dreams for our new co-op here in central Grand Rapids.
It took many hands and countless volunteer hours on the part of the owners of these co-ops before their dreams were realized and their stores opened. We are in that phase of our development, we would welcome many more hands so we could spread out those countless volunteer hours so no one gets burned out. Like a flock of geese who trade off leaders so everyone shares the work, we are looking for a new group of willing volunteers to move into greater involvement. You may not be an owner yet, and you’ve been wishing us well. Now is the time to go ahead and become an owner. Purchasing your share means you are more than just wishing us well, you are ready to make this dream happen!
If you are already an owner, now you can consider how to best invest your time, talents and gifts to help us achieve our dream together. Come to our Brewpub Meetups and get to know your fellow cooperators. Once you know us better, come to our Third Tuesday Action Circle meetings to learn how to table or get involved with one of our welcoming and fun Action Circles. We meet from 6:30-8:30 at Fountain Street Church. Your abilities will be greatly appreciated whatever they are! Just show up at a meeting, or send us an email telling us what you’d like to do at firstname.lastname@example.org.
They say Rome wasn’t built in a day. This is true of our co-op as well, but Rome was built by many people and that’s the beauty of building a co-op. Many people coming together in unity of purpose to bring a great grocery store to a part of town that will need and love it. And who knows what else we will grow together after that! I’m really looking forward to welcoming you more fully into our growing community.
Linda Jones, President
As President of our budding food co-op, I have the joy of helping to plant the roots of connection with other like-minded folks and groups in town, watering those connections with love for our vision of great food locally sourced, accessible to all, and as affordable as possible in a beautiful store that is warm and welcoming, and owned by our community where everyone can shop and anyone can become an owner.
I have recently met many folks who care about food justice, security and access at a two day workshop called, “From Charity to Solidarity.” The room was filled with people working hard to alleviate hunger in our area through food pantries, food banks, food trucks, food backpacks and education. We envisioned the future of Grand Rapids and saw a strong community of walkable neighborhoods with great food easily accessible. I was gratified to see my vision resonate with everyone else in that room. The idea of a food co-op where we are all co-owners of our food store also resonated with folks in that room. We left that workshop ready to move into action to make our visions reality.
So how does our project help move our community away from charity addressing food insecurity to solidarity with those who experience hunger? A food co-op is owned by anyone in our community who wants to join us. If you are low income, we have a Food for All share of $25 for every low income owner household and a robust scholarship fund for anyone who needs to use it. We trust our owners and don’t ask for verification of income. Our co-op includes everyone as equal owners and contributors to building our store. We are constantly growing our connections with communities of color and exploring together the ways our store can meet their needs and welcoming them as co-owners of our store. Each one of us has the same equal vote.
We have done all we can to break down any financial barriers and our task now is to come together to actually own that vision and buy our shares in this food co-op and bring our voice to the table so our vision will become a reality. Your community owned food co-op will open sooner if you, who see the vision and want it to become reality, move in concrete ways to build up our root system of support. Become a fellow owner, encourage your friends to become fellow owners, and then spend a little volunteer time working on the project with the other great folks who share your vision.
Imagine the benefits to our community that our food co-op will bring. Our local food system will be supported, nourished and strengthened. Our community will be more connected and empowered to make needed changes. Your home will have great food and you will feel healthier and more energetic. And you will have a place to gather with friends and family and share in the bounty of the Earth. I look forward to welcoming you to our co-op!