Remarks by Diane Curran, Board of Representatives President
Good evening, member-owners and shoppers at the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-op. My name is Diane Curran and I am president of the Board of Representatives of the Co-op. Thank you all for attending this historic meeting. It’s a night of firsts – our first-ever “remote” member-owner meeting, our first-ever pandemic meeting, and our first-ever meeting as a 100% online shopping store! We have really appreciated your support for our first-ever responses to the current health crisis, and we appreciate your participation in tonight’s meeting!
I’d like to thank the 8 other members of the Co-op’s Board of Representatives for their hard work and contributions to the Co-op over the past six months — Fred Feinstein, our Vice President; Susan Cho, our Secretary; Adam Frank, our Treasurer; and board members Susanne Lowen, Katea Stitt, Sawa Kamara, Bob Gibson, and Kathy Tsantiris. Thanks also to our Board administrator, Solveig Mortensen, who keeps notes of our meetings and maintains our Board records.
Here are five important things I want to share with you tonight:
- How very proud our nine board members are of the initiative that Mike and his management team have taken to protect all 50 of our Co-op workers and our thousands of Co-op member-owners and other customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. I want to emphasize that this transition was 100% about safety. And as far as we know, our Co-op is the first grocery store to respond to the pandemic in this way. Transforming the Co-op from a storefront to an online business was an enormous undertaking, and the Co-op staff took it on with tremendous energy, commitment and creativity.
All of you who jumped in and started ordering in late March know that there were a lot of bumps in the road at first – but Mike and the staff worked long hours to improve the system – and it is really showing now. For the board, it has been extraordinary to watch the Co-op management pivot with each new challenge and come up with responses that protect our staff, serve our member-owners and customers, and support the greater community. Our challenges happen fast – thus, if you have not filled out the form on the Co-op homepage to get our e-mail updates, I hope you will do that to stay informed and up-to-date. And also please check Mike’s regular blogposts on our Happenings page.
- How grateful I am to be part of this dedicated board of representatives. We have really been working hard to support Mike and the staff, and to keep our board business going in spite of the current health emergency. I want to give particular thanks to Susanne Lowen, who responded to a request for masks for Co-op staff members by obtaining more than 70 donated home-made masks from our community of member-owners and shoppers. And it was all done in the space of a few days. Thank you Susanne, and thanks to all the Co-op members who sewed masks to keep our Co-op staff safe! This truly was a Co-op-community effort.
- How aware we are that our Co-op is part of an even larger food system that is groaning under the stress of the COVID-19 crisis, and how committed we remain to being an active and supportive member of the regional food network. The Board is proud that the Co-op is continuing our long-term commitment to offer locally grown and produced food and other products. Our General Manager, Mike Houston, plays an active role in the Montgomery County Food Council. We have also collaborated with the Takoma Alliance for Local Living Economy (TALLE) and the Montgomery Countryside Alliance in seminars regarding local and regional food issues. These groups are working to address our local farmers’ emerging needs and challenges as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. If you would like more information about their initiatives, please see the Takoma Park Mobilization website and look for the TALLE working group.
- How stable the Co-op is – financially and institutionally. Our fiscal year has been a strong one so far, in spite of the pandemic. While the transition to online shopping has been challenging, we are still in sound financial shape. And we’ve been able to continue providing our staff members with full hours at a living wage. We’ve even been able to provide financial support to food assistance organizations in our region. That big white tent over the parking lot is a good symbol of our flexibility, stability, and creativity. Although you can’t enter the storefront now, we’re the same Co-op we’ve always been, offering healthy food, providing a safe and supportive work environment, and supporting our community.
Finally, I want to thank you, our member-owners and shoppers, for your support during our transition to on-line shopping. Thanks for all your notes of thanks and encouragement to our staff, which were passed on and received with great appreciation. Thanks for your feedback on our new system, and your forbearance as we ironed out the kinks. And thanks for your continued patronage!