Greenbelt Cooperative Alliance at Farmers Market
Cooperatives play a large role in the lives of many Greenbelt residents. They can live in a housing cooperative (Greenbelt Homes, Inc.), buy groceries in a cooperative supermarket (Greenbelt Consumer Cooperative), bank in a cooperative bank (Greenbelt Federal Credit Union), read a cooperative newspaper (Greenbelt News Review), send their children to a cooperative nursery school (Greenbelt Nursery School), eat and be entertained in a cooperative café (New Deal Café), and vacation at a cooperative camp (Rapidan Camps). These seven cooperatives form the Greenbelt Cooperative Alliance, and each year during October, the Co-op Month, a number of events are held. 2012 is the International Year of Cooperatives, and many other activities have been planned. On Sunday, June 10, representatives of the co-ops set up a tent at the Farmers Market with information and activities for kids.
Jaky Lilly (right) is a parent representing the Greenbelt Nursery School, and she is offering Jackson seeds to plant. The choices include cascade giant pole beans and royal burgundy bush beans. Looking from behind the table is Sylvia Lewis, the coordinator of today’s event for the Greenbelt Cooperative Alliance.
Jackson waters his newly planted seeds.
Founded in 1942, the Greenbelt Nursery School is a cooperative school for children between the ages of 2 and 5. Families, when their children are enrolled in the school, become members of the cooperative, and they actively participate in all parts of the school operation, from helping the teachers in the classroom to serving as board members, doing cleanups and fundraising. Because of the participation of the families, the school’s tuition is relatively low.
Information on each of the seven Greenbelt cooperatives is available. There are brochures from Greenbelt Homes Inc. and the Greenbelt Nursery School, copies of the Greenbelt News Review, menus from the New Deal Café, refrigerator magnets for the Co-op supermarket, current lending rates at the Greenbelt Federal Credit Union, and postcards for Rapidan Camps.
The bookmark shown at the lower right corner of the photo sums up the coop concept:
Definition: A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.
Principles: The cooperative principles are guidelines by which cooperatives put their values into practice.
1. Voluntary and Open Membership
2. Democratic Member Control
3. Members’ Economic Participation
4. Autonomy and Independence
5. Education, Training and Information
6. Cooperation Among Cooperatives
7. Concern for Community
Leta Mach, a member of the City Council and an at-large member of the Greenbelt Cooperative Alliance, offers Jackson a choice of stickers to decorate his balloon. The balloons are from the Greenbelt Federal Credit Union. Leta Mach has been involved in many of the city’s cooperatives. She served as treasurer of the Nursery School, reporter, editor and proofreader for the News Review, chair of the GHI Audit Committee, and secretary of the board of the Consumer Cooperative. Mach is also Greenbelt’s 2000 Outstanding Citizen. The honor is given out at each year’s Labor Day Festival, and the honoree leads the Labor Day Parade.
Donna Hoffmeister is the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Greenbelt Consumer Cooperative.
A grocery store opened in 1937 when Greenbelt came into existence. That enterprise, known as the Greenbelt Cooperative, grew rapidly during the next decades to include “grocery stores, gas stations, a furniture store, drug store, barber shop, beauty parlor, movie theater, laundromat, bus service and even a few shopping centers in Greenbelt and the surrounding suburbs.” In 1984, a new cooperative, the Greenbelt Consumers Cooperative, purchased the supermarket and pharmacy in Roosevelt Center, and this co-op currently has over 8,000 members and more than $12 million in annual sales.
Ben (age 3) and Toby (5) decorate a balloon.
A family plants seeds.
Marsha Voigt (right) is on the Greenbelt Consumer Cooperative’s Board of Directors. On the left is David Lange. Voigt is Greenbelt’s 2006 Outstanding Citizen, and Lange was honored in 1986.
Tom Jones (left) has been fielding many questions about Greenbelt’s least-known cooperative, Rapidan Camps. The camp consists of five cabins in a forested area in Virginia surrounded by Shenandoah National Park. The Rapidan River flows adjacent to the site. The coop was established in 1954, and about 100 member families collectively own the camp and work together to maintain and operate it. There are two work weekends per year, one in the spring and one in the fall, when members come to work on chores around the camp.
The lady picks up a postcard for Rapidan Camps and says that she recognizes Tom Jones and knew him when he was little. Jones answers that he is now married and “has moved all the way to Woodlands Way.”
Two women ask about rentals in Old Greenbelt, and Marat Moore on the right refers them to Greenbelt Homes, Inc. She says that GHI owns apartments near here and it may also have member townhouses approved for rental.
The federal government owned and ran Greenbelt from its establishment in 1937 to 1952. In 1952, the 1,600 homes were sold to a cooperative then named Greenbelt Veterans Housing Corporation, later renamed Greenbelt Homes, Inc. Houses and common areas in GHI are collectively owned and maintained.
Moore is a reporter for the Greenbelt News Review, which published its first issue on November 24, 1937 only a few weeks after the first residents moved into the brand-new Greenbelt. During the next 75 years, the weekly paper has not missed an issue. The brown envelope on the left contains tickets to the News Review’s 75th Anniversary Dinner which will be held at the Greenbelt Marriott on November 18. It is $50 per person.
Jaky Lilly, Marat Moore, Tom Jones, and Sylvia Lewis chat at the co-op tent. With the seven cooperatives covering a wide range of services, there is a question what other co-ops that Greenbelt might need. Moore mentions health care and perhaps a funeral home. Lewis says that back in England where she came from there are indeed cooperative funeral homes.
Sylvia Lewis wears her “Cooperatives do it together” and “Shop Local” buttons. She served many years of elected office at Greenbelt Homes, Inc., including audit committee, treasurer and president. She is Greenbelt’s newest Outstanding Citizen and was so honored at last year’s Labor Day Festival.
For the 2012 International Year of Cooperatives, the Greenbelt Cooperative Alliance will organize an event called “Celebrating Co-ops! Building a Better Greenbelt for 75 years” on August 12 at Roosevelt Center. There will be “entertainment, co-op bingo, co-opsicles, & more.”