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Community Reinvestment Fund Recipients
Produce News: Summer Fruits are Here
Book & Housewares News
Deli News: Transitioning to the Off-Site Kitchen
Juice Bar & Bakery News:
All About Cheesecake
Heath & Wellness News: Taking Care of Your Skin Under the Sun
Avoiding Food-Borne Illness this Summer
Recipes & Drink Recommendations
Producer Profile: West Star Farms
Camping Foods for Families \
The Wonders of Dried Fruit
by Tamara Urich, WSGC Board Member
It has been over 8 months since I was elected to serve as a Board member to the Co-op. A lot has happened in that time: I was appointed to the Ad Hoc Bylaws and Member Relations Committees; we had a successful Board/Management retreat; as a Board we have consistently met once a month; I attended the Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference as a staff member; as a Board we appointed a qualified Co-op member to fill an empty seat until elections in September. And, the Consumers Cooperative Management Association (CCMA) conference is this month. I, along with other Board members and Co-op management, will be attending. I can honestly say that serving the Co-op in this different capacity has furthered my belief that the Willy Street Co-op is a jewel to the Madison Community.
On April 8th there was a reception for the new off-site kitchen. In addition to the wonderful hors d’oeuvres, desserts, and beverages provided by the Co-op, members could explore other businesses that share the building with us (Gail Ambrosius and Main Street Yoga Center). Since the groundbreaking reception back in October, the 1882 E. Main St. building has undergone an amazing transformation. The site not only boasts a fine commercial kitchen, it also houses a staff break area, two offices and a conference room. I was amazed by the overwhelming support from the membership that came to see the new facility. The environment was so celebratory and laid back—an evening when one can really appreciate a sense of Co-op community.
On the flipside, in early May the Willy Street Co-op officially bowed out of negotiations with Monroe Partners. As the article in The Capital Times stated, “The proposed lease terms were unrealistic and ill-matched for its long term financial stability.” There are other options that have been presented to the Board for consideration. The next meeting should address our next step. Keep reading the Reader for updates.
The Member Relations Committee is comprised of four Board members, the Member Services Manager, and two Co-op members. The first issue we tackled was evaluating and surveying the Co-op’s current volunteer program. As a committee, we compared our benefits/structure with other grocery co-ops in the US. From that comparison, we drafted a survey and distributed it to over 60 committee, Board, and in-store volunteers. Based on the result, I am pleased to report that Willy Street Co-op has a happy volunteer corps that not only appreciates the discount, but also the staff, customers, sustainable agriculture, education, and the cooperative principles for which we stand.
The highlight (so far) in my service to this committee was being a part of the Community Reinvestment Fund Selection Process. This year, Willy Street Co-op presented $12,000 to nine organizations (ABC for Health, Catacombs Coffeehouse, Shabazz High School, Safe Haven, Red Caboose Day Care Center, MACSAC, Lincoln Elementary School, Bike Federation of WI, and Friends of Troy Gardens.) See the article on page 7 for specifics. The checks were presented at an informal ceremony in the Community Room. A delegate from each spoke on their specific organization and project. Congratulations to all of the recipients, and best wishes on your organizations’ future endeavors.
This Ad Hoc Bylaws Committee is comprised of three Board members and three staff members. There are certain guiding principles the Bylaws committee adheres to in proposing changes. They are: 1. Clear and easily understood language. 2. Consistent with Section 185 of WI Statutes. 3. Guides WSGC to operate in a manner consistent with cooperative principles (shared governance between Board, staff, and members). 4. Guides the Co-op to operate in a sound business manner, maintaining a balance of growth and stability. (Reflects governance of a multi-site organization, to allow for efficient decision-making.) 5. Provides member oversight of Co-op operations as a check against short-sited decisions thereby ensuring the long-term viability of the enterprise.
The areas of the Bylaws that need immediate attention (pertaining to expansion) are Board Composition, Finances, Participatory Management, and Membership. We are calling on the membership to be a part of this discussion. We will be holding four focus group discussions on these areas in the next four months. Some participants will be randomly selected; however there will be one group that is self-selecting. If you would like to be a part of that group stop at the customer service desk and sign up. (The meeting of that specific group is slated for some evening in July. For more information, look for the postings in the store, ask customer service and look in next month’s Reader.)
I was fortunate to be appointed to a Board committee that interviewed candidates to serve as an interim Board member. They were all very impressive and had a vested interest in the growth and success of the Co-op. After two days of interviews, the committee appointed Steve Silverberg as Interim Board member. Steve is a “life-long Madisonian” and is a resident of the east-side. He is the current president of Brazen Dropouts Bicycle Racing Club, which puts on the annual “Wheels on Willy” bike race. Welcome to the Board, Steve!
On June 9-11, I will be attending, along with my colleagues from the Board, the 49th Annual Consumer Cooperative Management Association conference in Albuquerque, NM. I am looking forward to this opportunity. Between the breakout sessions and keynote speakers I am sure to gain a wealth of new information. I am also looking forward to touring the La Montanita Food Cooperatives. They have four locations, including a new store in Santa Fe. I love comparing Willy Street to other co-ops I visit, and the perspectives I should gain from La Montanita’s recent expansion should really offer perspective to our current situation.