Board Report from 2009

by Brain Tokar

Reprinted from Plainfield Co-op Newsletter: Fall 2009

Well it just keeps getting better! Major improvements in the store have begun, our dedicated and thoroughly community-minded staff is thriving, and our Co-op is looking and feeling better all the time. Over the past few months, I can’t recall how many long-time members have stopped to tell me that the Co-op is better than ever!

Major improvements to our building are underway: the new furnace is installed in the basement, lots of space is freed up out back, and plans are in full gear for a major overhaul of our retail space toward the end of September. Look out for notices of major Co-op work-days coming up in just a few weeks. We’ll repaint and rearrange the store to make room for our new produce coolers and an expanded bulk section. The next phase will be in the back, where we’ll be getting a new, efficient walk-in cooler and remodeling our packing and storage areas.

As you already know, fundraising for these ambitious plans is also underway. As of August 6th (less than 3 weeks after the letters went out, and before we started meeting with potential larger donors), members had pledged over $6000 toward our fundraising goal. These funds will supplement our Cooperative Fund of New England loan and a phenomenal anonymous $10,000 donation, making the entire renovation plan possible. The staff is finding all manner of useful cost-cutting measures as they plan the details of the renovations, helping assure that we’ll stay on budget. Some of these changes were first proposed by Sam Clark and other Building Committee members the last time I was on the board, back in the mid-1990s. It’s truly wonderful to see it all coming together now! If you haven’t yet made a donation to this process, please contribute what you can today.

We’re also starting to plan our Annual Membership Meeting, which is scheduled for Sunday, November 8th. The membership will be asked to review several proposed bylaw changes at this meeting, most of which are aimed to facilitate the transition to equity ownership of our Co-op. You may recall that a general plan for member equity was approved at last November’s meeting. Since then, board members and others have been working hard to develop a plan that will meet the Co-op’s medium term capital needs without raising the amount of money that members contribute each year—until now in the form of annual dues. Introducing equity will mean that we are not only members, but fully empowered owners of the Co-op, and discounts at the register will be replaced by patronage refunds, significantly improving our financial planning. Almost all co-ops operate this way, and member equity has proved an important tool to help many co-ops, across the country and around the world, keep developing in ways that truly meet the needs and wishes of their community.

We will also have elections to fill several board seats this fall. We are thrilled that Rebecca Armell, who is doing an outstanding job as Secretary and as chair of the Fundraising Committee, will be on the slate of candidates for the three open 3-year terms, as will Mike Peabody, who stepped in to finish out Chris Riddell’s term earlier this year. Ian Maas’ 3-year term is ending as well, however he will not be seeking a second term. George Longenecker will be on the slate of candidates running for the one open 1-year term (the remainder of Chris’ term, which will be up for election this time, pending a long-needed bylaw change). We need at least one additional candidate (nominally for the seat currently held by Ian), and would love to see several additional energetic and enthusiastic folks running for these seats on the board. The board continues to meet the first Tuesday of every month, and plays a key role in helping guide our Co-op toward the future. Please consider joining us! Contact me, or one of the staff members, if you are interested.

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone over the next few months as we work together to make these exciting improvements happen! ❖

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