Friday, December 17, 2010

Coverage by WFCR of the Quabbin Sunrise Cooperative conversion, 12/14/10

WFCR, the public radio station for Western Massachusetts, aired the following story during its Tuesday morning news program on December 14, 2010.
"An organization that funds cooperative housing ventures is announcing a new resident owned mobile home park in western Massachusetts. Residents of the Oakwood Mobile Home Park in Ware recently bought the development where many of them had been living in their own trailers for years and paying rent to a land-owner. A nonprofit called ROC-USA loaned residents 1.75 million dollars for the 100- acre property, so they could form what's called the Quabbin Sunrise Cooperative. Cooperative treasurer Steve Varnum -- who's lived in his mobile home almost 30 years -- says residents were tired of having no control over maintenance issues and rent increases. He says about half of the 65 residents bought into the coop -- by paying a one-time fee of a hundred dollars.
Steve Varnum: "We have control over everything we can do, that's what we wanted, once we found out the place was for sale. And several of us thought this would be a great idea."
Varnum says each cooperative member pays $345 a month in rent, which is the same rent they used to pay to their landlord. Non-members pay $20 more. While the cooperative pays about 7 percent interest to ROC-USA, there was no down payment. The deal was facilitated by the Cooperative Development Institute -- or CDI -- which is holding workshops to help the new owners learn how to take care of their property and to work together."

Cooperation At Work in Our Communities: CDI Press Conference 12/14

Noémi Giszpenc
Phone: 413-665-1271 ext 2
Fax: 413-541-8300
December 14, 2010:
Cooperation At Work in Our Communities
Cooperative Development Institute announces over $300,000 in USDA Awards, $1.75 million cooperative park purchase
Shelburne Falls, MA - Awards of over $300,000 in USDA grants to the Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) boost the organization’s ability to provide technical assistance to new and existing cooperatively-run businesses that create jobs, preserve affordable housing, ensure access to healthy local foods, and sustain renewable resources throughout New England and New York state. The event, which began at 9 a.m. at the Shelburne Falls branch of the Greenfield Cooperative Bank, also served to highlight the organization’s key accomplishments during the past year.
“We have seen an increase in the demand for advice from people exploring the cooperative model,” said CDI president Noémi Giszpenc, “and thanks to commitment from funders, especially USDA, and from our staff and partners, we are able to provide those services and pursue our mission of creating a cooperative economy in the Northeast. And we are thrilled at the successful launch this past year of the  New England Resident Owned Communities Program, which has just secured 65 units of affordable housing in a cooperatively-owned park.”
State director of USDA Rural Development in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, Jay Healy, announced that “CDI was awarded a Rural Cooperative Development Grant by the USDA for the twelfth time, as well as two Rural Business Enterprise Grants--one of them here in Massachusetts, for $39,313.” The RCDG award of $225,000 is a competitive program, with funds typically accorded to only about 30 cooperative development centers each year. These funds will enable the organization to continue providing a wide range of training and technical support to all types of cooperative businesses. The second RBEG, for $49,749, will support an intensive training and mentoring program for co-ops in Connecticut.
“The recent purchase of Oakwood Mobile Home Park by a cooperative comprised of the 65 families residing there is an example of how CDI works,” said Andrew Danforth, CDI Housing Program Manager. CDI assisted with the $1.75 million purchase, which took place on November 23rd, by helping residents form a cooperative business to own and operate the park and secure financing. The president of the residents’ cooperative, Lisa Gauvin, said she is thankful “for friendships that have formed among neighbors, for a sense of ownership that has overtaken a community where once we were just renters, and most of all for a sense that our money will reap benefits for us instead of a landlord.”
Other cooperative businesses in the area are in the formative stage. The Old Creamery Cooperative is in the process of purchasing and converting this independently-owned country store to a community-owned operation. Members of the green burial committee of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Mass are searching for appropriate land for a cooperatively operated green cemetery. Manos Unidas, a cultural cooperative, is working to rehab a building in Pittsfield and turn it into a mixed use community center with affordable housing.
Tuesday’s press conference highlighted the organization’s key accomplishments during the past year as well as the contribution of so many diverse cooperatives to the economy of Western Massachusetts. “We want to show people the wide range of cooperative businesses around us and how they are part of building strong, sustainable local economies,” said Giszpenc. “From solar power installation to beautiful crafts, access to healthy local food and a decent place to live, cooperatives are an essential part of creating an economy and society that responds to the needs of all its citizens.”
Nearly every aspect of the event featured the region’s diverse and robust cooperative economy, not just the speakers presenting there.  Refreshments were donated byEqual ExchangeCabot Creamery, and Shelburne Falls’ McCusker’s Market, all of which are cooperatively-run enterprises.  Art from Shelburne Arts Co-op graced the room. Attendees enjoyed blueberry jam prepared in the Franklin County CDC commercial kitchen with fresh berries from The Benson Place.  CDI’s printed materials were provided by Collective Copies, a worker-owned print shop operating throughout the Pioneer Valley. Our website and email system are hosted by GAIA Host Collective, a worker-owned internet service provider. The venue itself, the Shelburne Falls branch of the Greenfield Cooperative Bank, is a mutual bank controlled by its depositors.
See WGGB abc40 coverage, a cover story in the Shelburne Falls and West County Independent, and look for articles in the Greenfield Recorder. See also a transcript of coverage from WFCR radio.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

CDI Press Conference 12/14, Coverage by WGGB ABC40

Shelburne Falls, MA - CDI held a press conference to celebrate Cooperation in Our Communities, highlighting existing cooperatives in the Western Mass. region and throughout the Northeast, such as McCusker's Market(see video, below), as well as emerging cooperative projects. Of special note were the Quabbin Sunrise Cooperative, which purchased the manufactured home park in which its 65 resident-owners live and the Old Creamery Cooperative, a project in which the community is purchasing an independently owned historic country store. These efforts to preserve and improve a local business's services through cooperative ownership, whether by employees, customers, or residents, represent an important strategy for Main Street preservation.  Read the press release here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010