This year has been wild. I don’t know how else to describe it.
In every facet of my life, new challenges have been popping up seemingly daily. I’m having to rethink how I do everything from educating my child to doing my job to shopping for groceries. I know I am not alone in this because I have heard and seen my friends and neighbors struggle with similar challenges.
The thing about challenging times, though, is that they are often the catalyst for opportunities and growth. Necessity is the mother of invention. Diamonds are made under pressure. And a hundred other adages about growing through challenging times.
I know this has been the case for the Whitewater Grocery Co.
Back in March, when life seemed to come to a screeching halt for most of us, the GroCo board and committees took a needed break. It was an unspoken break at first, as we all just allowed each other the space and time we needed to get our own houses in order. Then we started reaching out, checking in, and gathering (virtually) to talk about what was happening and how it was affecting us all.
Around the time we were all resurfacing to check in, our mentors over at Food Co-Op Initiative started putting together online courses and discussions about topics relevant to start-up co-ops now. The online events, aptly named the CoVideo Series, brought together co-op developers from all over the country to talk about how we were moving forward in “these times”.
One class in particular stuck out to me, not just as a co-op developer but as a human being. The topic was Pause and Assess. It was a deep dive into how we can give ourselves permission to take a break, a brief pause, and look at what is in front of us, before moving forward. We are so often too busy pushing forward to take the time we need to assess where we are and what we are doing.
Using what we had learned in these courses and through many hours of conversation, our Board Treasurer, Jennifer Crone, sat down with our timeline and some colored pencils and got to work. She stripped away all of the fluff and took a hard look at the essentials of opening the co-op. Her back-to-basics approach to our timeline gave us three potential futures and a top level view of the key milestones we need to meet to move forward. It has become a guiding light and a metric by which to judge any new ideas that come our way. With this new timeline we have been able to move the project forward with clarity and new momentum.
Take a look at the three possible futures in our timeline. The work is the same but the time it takes varies. That’s because we’re doing this work ourselves and the more help we get the faster we can move.
In our current stage of development, we have three major goals:
- Reach 780 Owners (or 60% of our Ownership goal)
- Research and prep for our capital campaign (answer the question of how much money do we need to raise and how?)
- Secure our site
If you look at these tasks and feel like you can help, please let us know. We’re always looking for more hands to make this work lighter. And anyone can help with Goal #1 -- just encourage your friends and family to join.
I was so encouraged this week when my uncle, who lives way out in Oregon, became an Owner of our store. He’s the fourth of my out-of-state family members to contribute to our vision. Our friends and family, far and wide, want us to have the quality of life we deserve. They want to see our dream become a reality and they want to shop in our store with us when they visit. They’re willing to help when asked. Just like how our community came together to raise over $3,000 this month for our local food security organizations.
At their core, people want to help and come together to get things done. We are natural-born cooperators.
That’s just one of the positive lessons I have learned this year. Despite the wildness of 2020, there have been glimmers of hope, togetherness, growth, and joy.
It should come as no surprise that we’ve been able to find new momentum and clarity at the GroCo in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. Our movement was sparked out of challenge. We came together in 2017 to solve a problem in our community. There were a million and one unknowns and yet we gathered what we knew and organized to build a brighter future. We’ve met new challenges along the way, some unprecedented, but every single one has made us better cooperators.
We’re calling on you now to join us in this momentum. There are so many ways to help and none of them cost a thing:
- Tell your friends about us
- Share, like, and comment on our Facebook posts
- Send us ideas and pictures for our store
- Ask your elected representatives to support us
- Attend a board meeting
- Ask about joining a committee or sitting in on a meeting to learn more
Volunteer your talents and time. We need:
- Board Member Candidates
- Financial Experts
- People who like to make phone calls and make connections
By pulling together and focusing on what can be done, we can make the most of this crazy time and come out on the other side with a uniquely local grocery store that serves our whole community. We Own this future store together, and we all have the power to make big things happen.