St. J. Co-Op Launches Fundraiser

StJ Co-OpST. JOHNSBURY - Despite concerns that the St. J. Food Co-Op would close in early September, the doors are open and it's business as usual – with a twist. The co-op and members of the community have teamed up for a fundraiser in an effort to keep the store alive.

So far, the fundraiser has netted over $13,000 through buy-ahead gift cards and an online donation page. The co-op hopes to raise a total of $15,000 that will go toward fully restocking the store.

In addition to monetary contributions, the co-op has received food donations from several local farms and markets. Joe's Brook Farm recently donated produce to the store and will continue to do so for the next few weeks.

"As a small local farm, we're a part of that community and we want to help out," said Dave Brush, a worker at Joe's Brook Farm and co-op member. "We want to see the co-op survive. Not only survive, but thrive."

The co-op is no stranger to community support efforts. As a state non-profit, its main goal is to give back to member-owners and community members through store proceeds.

Co-op president Brian Romeo knows that a healthy co-op has a major impact.

"It brings the community together. It's also huge for the local economy. We are a local business and we try to carry as much local product as we possibly can."

Members of the co-op were notified of financial issues at a meeting in mid-August. Over 40 people attended the meeting, which focused on fundraising plans and a possible closure on September 1st if the $15,000 goal wasn't reached.

Despite not meeting the self-imposed deadline, co-op officials decided to move forward and keep the store open because so many people were willing to lend a hand.

"The involvement and community support has been amazing," Romeo noted.

For members like Brush, the opportunity to get involved was a welcome one.

"I'm glad that I can be a part of this and help out," he explained.

Workers and volunteers held a series of neighborhood meetings in early September to identify priority areas to focus on once fundraising efforts are complete. The co-op is also in the process of forming committees to look at issues like marketing and merchandising.

Partners like Joe's Brook Farm are committed to helping the co-op as it tries to overcome its financial setbacks.

"It's all part of the community and it benefits everyone," Brush explained. "We definitely are committed to being a part of that."

Those interested in donating, helping as a volunteer, or becoming a member can visit the co-op's website or call 802-748-9498.