ROC-NH staff

Co-op president has what it takes to advocate for his community

By ROC-NH staff

Changing big systems takes vision, persistence, and guts. One member of a N.H. resident-owned community has used those qualities to improve residents' lives.

It takes vision, persistence, and guts to change big systems. Don Woodward, president of Exeter River Cooperative in Exeter, N.H., has all three qualities and uses them to change public policy to serve his resident-owned community.

He recently persuaded a public bus line to add a stop, starting April 22, that will serve the residents of Exeter's three manufactured-home co-ops.

Don explains:

Don Woodward"One of the ways we make our community financially sustainable is to look for ways to make it more livable. Providing access to affordable transportation is one of those steps.

"For several years we have been working with the COoperative Alliance for Seacoast Transportation, known here as COASTBUS. This not your run-of-the-mill bus company. It's more of a not-for-profit entity, like our manufactured-housing co-op. Recently we were able to negotiate a route change to allow their 44-foot Gillig transit buses to stop at a neighborhood market that is close to three co-ops.

"In a couple weeks, the new bus stop will provide our residents with better access to jobs, continuing education, and many events outside of our community. More than 450 households will be served.

"Even if they don't own a car, co-op residents will have access to Franklin Pierce College, Great Bay Community College, Granite State College, Southern New Hampshire University, and the University of New Hampshire's Professional Development and Training Center (I attend seminars there), all in Portsmouth. And, with a stop in Newmarket, our residents will be able to connect to Wildcat Transit, which services UNH in Durham.

"The bus will provide better access to hospitals, doctors, therapy, pharmacies, and grocery stores, as well as three large retail districts. The service even provides access to AMTRAK's Downeaster route.

"Needless to say, this took several years of work, planning, route logistics, funding and coordination.

"The bus stop will be an asset to our community and will improve our residents' quality of life."

Along with serving as president of the Exeter River Cooperative, New Hampshire's largest, Don is a graduate of ROC-NH's Community Leadership training and its Policy and Advocacy Academy.

By the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund's Policy team.