As I look back on four years of volunteer work on the Board of Directors, I’m struck anew by the uniqueness and beauty of our community cooperative – a grocery store collective, run using the challenging practice of consensus, in which each person – staff, volunteer, or member – strives to reach our mission and goals. I reflect on the many powerfully committed people I am fortunate to work side by side with and learn from, each of whom brings particular views, extraordinary skills and distinct experiences to the work, enhancing it. Our guiding principles are simultaneously lofty, humane and yet concrete and practical, and are marked by an inherent essence of dignity. They are time tested, having served our organization for decades, and still they are flexible and open to interpretation, to evolution.
During my time on the Board, I’ve worked on the member relations committee, which spearheaded the Co-op Conversation in 2011 and 2012. This was an important process the Co-op developed to bring our community together to discuss critical issues and form recommendations for our future vision. It’s been exciting to see the many ways in which the Co-op Conversation impacted our current and future plans for our organization. One recommendation was to improve our communication mechanisms. To this end, the member relations committee is creating a staff job description that will serve as a communications hub, to help members find the information they need. The member relations committee has also been working to increase opportunities for community discussion. We held a Co-op Conversation early this summer to discuss the integration of the new member information system and the point of sale system. The committee is also working diligently to bring members this year’s annual meeting on Sunday, November 2, at the Olympia Women’s Club, with the theme, “Let’s Celebrate!”
We have many reasons to celebrate. The past four years have been an exciting time for expansion – we’ve acquired two properties both adjacent to our existing east and westside stores. One of these, the little house property, has been transformed into a gorgeous new garden center, providing members with everything they need to grow delicious organic food. The completion of the westside reset has added some convenient new features, upgrading the store’s usability, and enhancing the shopping experience. It’s equally exciting to look ahead at the future of expansion, as we consider the possibility of a multiuse warehouse type structure and additional parking on the eastside lot, making an eastside store renovation a strong possibility.
My term ends in December, and I plan to keep volunteering in some capacity. I will continue to be tied to the Co-op as a defendant in the ongoing freedom of speech case, Davis v. Cox, et. al. It’s been a surreal experience to be sued by fellow Co-op members for agreeing with the previous Board’s decision to boycott products contributing to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The Supreme Court of Washington will decide in the coming months whether to hear the case (they’ve already declined once). Being targeted for taking a principled stand on one of the most controversial issues of our time has not been easy, but I continue to adhere to the position I was elected on, to heed the call of Palestinian civil society to boycott, divest and sanction Israel for its gross human rights violations.
The Co-op’s mission and goals are broad, and include, among other things, to “support efforts to foster a socially and economically egalitarian society,” alongside “make good food accessible to more people,” and we are contributing to achieving these goals and more. According to an article in the Olympian, an April Gallup poll revealed that Olympia is the top city in the nation for access to fresh, affordable produce, and cited our cooperative as an influence on the local food movement. We are meeting our mission, through hard work and sometimes, through struggle. At its heart, our Co-op is made up of people determined to move forward together, secure our association and the mutual understanding that, in our own way and collectively, we are contributing to a better world.
By Erin Genia, Board member