Come one, come all—the Willy Street Co-op Annual Meeting & Party (AMP) will be held on July 8th, 2010. Among its fellow cooperative grocers, Willy Street is famous for knowing how to throw a fabulous party! Last year, over 2,400 meals were served and we’re planning for 4,000 this year (remember those numbers). Since 2008, the AMP has been held in conjunction with La Fête de Marquette, one of the big summer outdoor festivals on the east side of Madison (others include the Marquette Waterfront Festival, the Orton Park Festival, and the Willy Street Fair). You might be thinking that the AMP joined with La Fête because it had outgrown the Co-op’s parking lot, and if so, you are partly right. All of these events are supported by and benefit different neighborhood organizations, especially the Marquette Neighborhood Association and the Wil-Mar Center, but the Co-op’s involvement, including both monetary and in-kind support—like staffing, organizing, selling food—is a constant.

In addition to playing a big part in making these summer festivals happen, Willy Street Co-op regularly assists a whole host of local organizations. In the May 2010 Ends Policy Report that monitors how well the Co-op is achieving the goals laid out in its ends policies, under the goal “Celebrate, Educate & Promote Community,” there is a list of 35 organizations, from Habitat ReStore to Porchlight, that Willy Street Co-op recently supported by making small donations to enable them to carry on their work. And that’s not even mentioning the lengthy list of classes held in the Community Room at the Co-op.

Your Co-op has always been a great neighbor on the east side, and this is sure to continue when Willy West opens in Middleton. (Incidentally, Middleton High School is on that list of small donations; Willy Street Co-op supported an ecology event at the school.) I got proof of this when I helped staff a Willy Street Co-op information table, on a cold, wet, April Saturday, for an Earth Day clean-up event in Middleton. Dumpsters were set up in a parking lot so residents could drive in and drop off appliances, computers, household chemicals, and other stuff from their basements to be recycled properly. I was mightily surprised when many of them chose to get out of their cars after dumping their junk to visit Willy Street Co-op’s table. Not only was everyone excited and happy that the Co-op is coming to Middleton, one of the organizers of the clean-up from the Middleton Chamber of Commerce dropped by the table and told us, “I just know you’re going to fit right in here.”

So what does Willy Street Co-op’s neighborliness and backing of community organizations have to do with the AMP? It’s all doing good by having fun! When people go to the Willy Street Fair, they’re probably not thinking about raising money for Common Wealth Development and other neighborhood organizations—they’re thinking about hearing some great music, buying a tasty snack, and seeing all their friends and neighbors decked out in funny costumes. When Willy Street Co-op Owners come to the AMP, they queue up for a delicious dinner, their kids play games, and they might listen to a band or two, and maybe even quaff an adult beverage. But in the midst of the fun, real Co-op business gets conducted.

There’s a short business meeting at the AMP, and reports from the General Manager and Board of Directors on the Co-op’s activities in the past year are always on the agenda. The slate of candidates for the Board is presented at the AMP, and candidates who are present get a chance to say a few words—really a few! You won’t get to know any of the candidates in depth, but it’s still a nice opportunity to see them live, in addition to the print and online information you’ll be able to read in the candidates’ statements that will appear in the Reader and on the Willy Street Co-op website.

In the 2009 election, we had 13 candidates for five seats on the Board—a really great turnout. 1,064 valid ballots were cast by Co-op owners—which isn’t an equally great turnout, especially when compared to the 2,400+ who came and enjoyed the AMP.
How’s that for a goal for this year —let’s see if we can get the number of Willy Street Co-op Owners who vote in the election to equal the number who turn out for the Annual Meeting & Party! So come one, come all, and really do good by having fun—enjoy the party, and don’t forget to vote!