The Co-operative and Community

If someone were to ask you “what do you think of when someone says Co-Op” what would your answer be?

My answer would be, the place where I grew up.  No, silly, I don’t mean that I grew up in the co-op but the town where I grew up, Alford in Lincolnshire.  When I was young there were no Tesco’s or Sainsburys, if there were they were probably in the bigger towns.  The Co-op was the small supermarket near the Church, all the staff knew you by your first name and you’d never just go in to do your shopping.  You’d always have to allow yourself time to stop to have a quick chat with someone whether they be working there or just doing their shopping.  Co-op to me, says community because that is exactly what Alford was like growing up.  It was a community, no matter who you passed when you walked down the street they would smile and say hello.  If you needed help with something, there would always be someone willing to give you a hand.  When my Nanna died I remember going into town and receiving hug after hug after hug as people saw me and wanted to offer their condolences.  The Co-op is still there today some thirty-something years later, it has moved to a larger purpose built building but its still going strong – it is still a central piece of the community.

Way back in 1844 a co-operative known as the Rochdale Pioneers was formed in by 28 weavers who were being forced into poverty due to the Industrial Revolution as their skills were being replaced by mechanical equipment.  The tradesman banded together to open their own store selling food items they could not otherwise afford.  On 21st December 1844 they opened their store selling butter, sugar, flour, oatmeal and a few candles.  Within three months were able to extend their range to include tobacco and tea.  Ten years later, the British Co-operative movement had expanded to nearly 1000 cooperatives.  Today in the UK the Co-operative has six million members and 5000 outlets under its umbrella of business including food, financial services, travel, pharmacy and funerals.

From Monday 7th March a new campaign launched on TV telling of the Rochdale Pioneers.  The campaign highlights the Co-operatives ethical credentials and features real people and groups who have felt driven to revolutionise their life and that of their community. The Co-operative Community Fund is funded by money that members agree to donate from their share of the profits.  This money is used to help initiatives throughout the UK and developing world.

One such project is the Play Montgomeryshire which provides families with free or low cost activities which creates opportunities for children to learn through play.  One service is the Machynlleth Toy Library who approached the Co-operative Community Fund when their existing funding provider withdrew their support and the Toy Library faced closure.  The Community Fund were able to offer them a £2,000 donation and now they are going from strength to strength providing a worthy service to their community.

To find out more about the Co-operative and what they could do for you and your community visit their Facebook page:

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