George Eliot was the pen name of poet and novelist Mary Anne Evans, one of the leading writers and intellectuals of the Victorian Era. I’ve been thinking a lot about our Co-op’s charitable giving philosophy lately, and a quote from Evans comes to mind. “What do we live for,” she once wrote, “if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?”
Anyone who reads these columns knows I like to sing the praises of our Co-op teams. With that in mind, I’d like to share with you some remarkable work being done by Co-op members, Board members, and employees on the topic of charitable giving.
Our Co-op’s sweeping and humanitarian giving program has gradually evolved over many decades. This has been a good thing, designed to provide a level of support wherever it might be needed. The goal has always been broad and ambitious.
Over the past year, we looked at all the ways our members and employees donate their time, money, energy, and skills to our communities through the conduit of the Co-op’s charitable giving programs. Just a few of these programs include:
- Pennies for Change
- Employee volunteer work in the community
- HCCF Community Project Grants
- Gerstenberger Scholarship Awards
- HCCF Golf Tournament
- The King Award
- Small donations
- LISTEN Dinner
- Food drives
- The Haven ordering program
- Willing Hands
- Emergency donations
- Shred events
- Ice Cream / Coffee with a Cop
- Alzheimer’s Walk
- Headrest – Rail Trail Ramble
- The Prouty
- Advocacy work
And the list goes on.
These giving programs reflect who we are as a community. We are not a commercial big-box grocery store with a giving program designed only to work in tandem with marketing and promotional efforts. Our charitable work is altruistic in nature, designed to help the people we are here to serve. The only thing that’s been lacking is a strategic way of keeping track of these programs and measuring their impact. That’s what we’re working on now, and it’s a big step forward.
Last spring, our Board’s Charitable Giving Committee began streamlining our efforts. The committee developed four themes:
- Food assistance
- Community building initiatives, including support for agriculture
- Promotion of cooperative principles or activities and cooperative education
- Environmental protection and sustainability initiatives
With that as a guide, employees went to work. Spearheaded by the Outreach and Member Services Department, a Donation Committee was formed. The goals of this committee are to organize and provide support for existing programs, look for new opportunities, and track and measure community impact. Right now all of this is just getting off the ground, and I look forward to keeping you posted as it moves forward.
In the meantime, I want to thank all of our members, Board members, and employees who put so much work into our community programs. I encourage all of you to take a look at some of the thank-you notes on the Co-op website to help you remember the difference you are making in the lives of the people around you. It’s a big part of who we are as a people and a culture. And ultimately it’s what what cooperation is all about—making life less difficult for others.
Want to talk about this? Reach out to me anytime. My door is always open.