“These monthly donations are beyond generous,” writes Kyle Fisher, Executive Director of LISTEN Community Services, “and … go a long way in ensuring that families in the Upper Valley stay fed, warm, and housed.
“In 2017,” Kyle tells us, LISTEN was “able to provide 30,980 community dinner guests with warm 3-course meals, 909 families with groceries, 348 households with fuel assistance, 118 families with rental assistance, and send 269 children to a summer camp of their family’s choice.”
And LISTEN is not alone. Good Beginnings offers thanks for monetary assistance that supported its service to Upper Valley families with new babies. The Upper Valley Haven writes, “Your support touched many lives,” and lists examples from helping a veteran secure a safe apartment to assisting a single mother and her children recovering from the trauma of domestic violence. We read a steady stream of letters expressing gratitude for help where it’s needed most.
The source for all this assistance? The Pennies for Change program at our Co-op, which started last June and has already raised more than a quarter million dollars. It’s simple: Shoppers at our stores are given the option of rounding up the cost of their purchases to the next dollar. Many do so, the pennies add up, and checks are sent every month to service organizations across our community. It is incredible how these many tiny contributions add up to thousands and thousands of dollars month after month!
The idea was the brainchild of Emily Rogers, the Co-op’s Member Education Manager, and we all wonder why no one had thought about doing this until just a few months ago.
Best of all, Pennies for Change is only one of the several giving programs that our Co-op administers. Since 2001, our Co-op has raised money with an annual golf tournament and product sales to contribute to the Hanover Cooperative Community Fund, or HCCF. This fund, approaching the half-million dollar mark and managed by Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation in California, allows us to issue loans to fund co-op development regionally.
The Interest collected on these loans has been used until recently for donations to local non-profit organizations. Now, since Pennies for Change is more than fulfilling this latter role, HCCF proceeds will go to fund a cooperative education scholarship and community project grants. Our first call for proposals has generated much enthusiasm across the Upper Valley, and we are going to have a hard time selecting beneficiaries among many worthy project proposals.
And, have you heard of Willing Hands? Food that no longer meets our store quality standards but remains edible is given to Willing Hands to provide reliable and nutritious food for our neighbors in need. This provides not only nutrition but also nutritional education to the recipients, and in the process reduces much unnecessary waste.
Want to hear about yet another form of giving at our Co-op? Employees engage with our community by giving their time to organizations they are passionate about, and our Co-op encourages this engagement by reimbursing up to eight hours of community time. In 2016, employees logged over 850 hours of community service time. One of the best examples is the monthly LISTEN dinner: For eight years Co-op employees have volunteered once a month to host a dinner, which they prepare earlier in the day at our Co-op Kitchen. It is estimated that Co-op employees have served over 5,000 meals since the beginning of this program.
Recently, the Board of Directors decided to have a good look at our various giving programs in order to ensure that they operate effectively and help us reach the Co-op’s mission “to provide cooperative commerce for the greater good of our members and community.”
This introspection led to the enunciation of four leading themes: (1) Food assistance to alleviate hunger, (2) Community building, (3) Promotion of cooperative principles, and (4) Protection of the environment. These are diverse and lofty objectives, with needs that will never entirely disappear, but evidence suggests that our organization is meeting the challenges effectively and sizably. Our most visible activities may be in our grocery stores and service station, but fundamentally we are a member-owned organization dedicated to good deeds for the community.
As the year ends and hearts tend toward generosity, please join us in supporting community services through the Co-op’s giving programs.
Benoit Roisin, Treasurer
William M. Craig, President
Amanda Charland, Member Services and Outreach Director
8 December 2017