A recent encounter I had with a community member about the Cedar Falls Food Co-op reminded me that no matter how many conversations you have, how many social media posts are created, and how many presentations are made in front of civic groups, the idea of what the Co-op will be is still not clearly understood by many. So even though “Joe” knew about the Co-op, including what the cost of a membership is and that we were searching for a location, I could tell he was still uncertain about many of the details. When you get to the core of his questioning, it was basically this: How is the Co-op different than any other business that might operate in Cedar Falls?
I think two recent happenings are the best place to start to explain the difference. The first event was the Annual Member-Owner Meeting, which took place on Oct. 23. At this meeting, the Co-op’s board provided updates on the Co-op’s efforts to the membership. Among the updates were membership growth, communications numbers, and financial details. We also discussed upcoming steps, including site selection, hiring a general manager, and the upcoming investment campaign. What’s noteworthy about this was the transparency and the willingness to solicit questions from the membership. Honest and open conversations between the folks in charge and the stakeholders are critical to the cooperative model.
The second event that helps shed light on this difference is the recent election. The members of the Co-op voted to elect three new members to the board of directors. Congratulations to Kate Dunning, Trevor Hendrickson, and Sally Rayzor! These three members are now going to help continue the momentum already established to open the doors for the Co-op.
The point I wanted to make to Joe is this: As a member, you have the ability to lead in the effort, vote for people who will, and hold them accountable for their work. How many other businesses do you frequent that you can say that about?
With the conclusion of this year’s board elections, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the three outgoing board members. Their work over the years is worthy of so much more praise than I can squeeze into this post.
Sheri started volunteering for the Co-op’s Operations Team in the summer of 2013. She was helpful in a number of initiatives, including the annual Fall Food Fest. Sheri later joined the board—she, along with the other two that I’m recognizing here, were the very first to run for the board. (Prior board members volunteered before formal elections were established.) Sheri also helped start up our Investment Team, which meant that she was the only board member serving on more than one committee. Thank you, Sheri!
Like Sheri, Jess became involved in committee work before joining the board. Jess started with the Communications Team in the fall of 2014. Jess has been very instrumental in our efforts in marketing, design, social media, and event photography. As a board member, Jess took the reins of the Communications Team, chairing it for the last year, and also serving as the board secretary for the last 3 years. Jess made considerable efforts to educate herself about the world of start-up food co-ops by, among other things, attending two national food co-op conferences, making her an invaluable leader in our efforts. Thank you, Jess!
Prior to joining the board, Brenna was serving on the Membership Team, which she started volunteering with in the fall of 2013. After Melanie Drake stepped down to serve as the Outreach Coordinator, Brenna stepped up to chair the Membership’s efforts, and she should be lauded for leading many successful campaigns over her tenure in this role. Brenna has helped the Co-op in numerous other ways, helping with house parties, special events, phone calling, booth staffing, and more. On a more personal level, I could always count on Brenna as a trusted advisor to my role as the president. Her commitment to this work kept inspiring me to work even harder. Thank you, Brenna!
If you have stories about Sheri, Jess, or Brenna’s efforts in helping the Co-op, please share in the comments below or by sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you see either of these three outstanding people, please be sure to thank them for their service to the Co-o and to the greater Cedar Valley community.