Sharing inspiring stories of co-operation

Approx 979 words. 5 minutes.

This month, we, and Co-ops all over the UK, celebrate Co-op Fortnight (Monday 22 June to Sunday 5 July 2020), which this year will showcase all the great examples of co-operation taking place in our communities. 

And, there has perhaps never been a more appropriate time to share some of the different ways co-operation is making a difference. This year, the theme is #KeepCooperating, to harness some of the new co-operation we’ve all seen during the Coronavirus pandemic to change society for the better. 

And it’s our members who are getting involved by doing great things in their communities to help those most in need during the crisis. 

From setting up foodbanks and delivering meals to making face masks and hosting online social groups, our Member Pioneers have been working together with local causes, colleagues, members and voluntary groups to deliver real change in their local areas. 

Here are just some of their inspiring stories… 

Member Pioneer, Paula Snowdon, has been working with the Wheatley Hill Coop Food store and a team of community volunteers in County Durham to deliver essential shopping to vulnerable residents. 

“Working with the Food store manager Kelly Naylor, we created our own mutual aid group on Facebook and started delivering food parcels,” she explains. 

“We’ve travelled to Co-op Food stores further afield to source flour and eggs and worked with local causes – including The Greenhill Community Centre – delivering afternoon tea to those most in need. We also offer a listening ear to those who just need someone to talk to. 

“Colleagues at the Food store have been so supportive. An in-store donation box has now been set up to help those struggling to afford essential items.” 

Thanks to Sue Stokes, Member Pioneer for Park Gate and Warsash, residents at 14 care homes and a further 254 isolated older people in Fareham and Gosport, received cream tea packages to mark VE Day in May. 

Sue contacted the Southern Co-op who, along with The Coop and Volunteers of the Acts of Kindness Foodbank, donated food packages which included Co-op scones, jam and cream. 

While many Member Pioneers have set up COVID-19 response groups, Shaun Fensom has been concentrating on connecting people together in Greater Manchester. 

“Chorlton Bike Deliveries approached me because they wanted a better connection with Co-op,” he explains. 

Based on cooperative values, the local cyclists have created a food delivery service supporting vulnerable residents. 

“I arranged for surplus food that was going to waste to be collected daily from the Wilbraham Road Food store and this was then distributed to the local community.” 

Shaun, who also used some of his Member Pioneer budget to buy hi-vis vests to keep the volunteers safe, says the group is now looking at ways to become a more sustainable social enterprise. 

Member Pioneer Co-ordinator for Irvine and Ayrshire, Gillian Cunningham, praised the efforts of her squad of 10 Member Pioneers. 

Seamstress, and Member Pioneer Laura Newlands, has been making face masks and supplying them to customers at her local Food store in Beith in exchange for toiletries, which are then distributed to the elderly in care homes around Ayrshire. 

“The idea really took off and now a team of 30 volunteers have made around 1,500 masks,” says Gillian.  

“Material and elastic have been donated by local businesses that have had to close during the crisis, so it really is about the community pulling together.” 

To spread some positivity, Member Pioneer Steven Connelly created the ‘Sunshine Through your Letterbox’ campaign. Local children have drawn pictures and written poems, and these have been digitally shared with care home residents. 

“It’s just a nice way to brighten up someone’s day especially when they have little contact with family and friends. It’s the simplest of things that bring the most joy,” says Gillian. 

With a background in social care, Member Pioneer Linda Watt, has set up a telephone befriending service from her home to offer support to those self-isolating. Member Pioneer Cara Crowe is running online cooking tutorials using and promoting Co-op products, while Member Pioneer Janet Allan has been baking cupcake bouquets with donated items from food stores and these are being distributed to colleagues in Funeral care homes and Co-op Food stores to thank them for their hard work. 

“It’s been phenomenal. They’ve all been working together and using their skills to make great things happen in their local communities,” says Gillian.  “This crisis has really raised the profile of Member Pioneers and highlighted the importance of the work that they do.” 

Co-op customers are also supporting vulnerable people in their local area by volunteering to collect and deliver groceries to those in need. 

Debbie Jones, a Co-op member from Ammanford in South Wales, says she signed up to Co-op’s Community Shopping Scheme because volunteering made her feel less helpless. 

“I was asked to deliver shopping to a man whose order had been delayed meaning he had no food at all in his house,” she says. “I was happy to help and only wish I could do more.” 

Now we’ve seen what can happen when we ALL co-operate. Let’s build something better together. Keep an eye out for the Co-op Fortnight celebrations on our social media and share co-operation in your community using the hashtag #KeepCooperating 

If you’re keen to do more to make a difference in your local community, why not become a Co-op Member Pioneer? Find out how here. 

There are always ways for you to join in with your Co-op. Sign into your membership account to see the latest opportunities available to you right now. 

Do you know a person, group or cause that has displayed a great act of co-operation during the crisis? Tell us and they could be in with a chance of winning a £50 Co-op Food voucher.

Let’s #KeepCooperating 

Edward Powell 
Community and Shared Value