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Co-ops using funds to strengthen each other

"Cooperatives Commit" is the theme of National Cooperatives Month, which was celebrated in October, 2017.

The New Hampshire Community Loan Fund has been committed to co-ops since our first loan—to a manufactured-home co-op in Meredith. In the past year alone, we've loaned more than $10 million to 10 co-ops.

David Thompson is President of the Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation (TPCF), a long-term investor here. The foundation is not only our largest co-op investor; it's the largest co-op equity investor in cooperative development organizations in the U.S.

For Co-ops Commit month, David offered to show how some of New Hampshire's co-ops are using their money to strengthen one another

By David J. Thompson

Three food co-ops in New Hampshire are leading the way in transformative actions that carry out Principle 6 of the International Cooperative Alliance. That principle, “Cooperation among Cooperatives” encourages cooperatives to work together to strengthen each other.

International Co-operative Alliance, Sixth Principle:

“Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.”

The Hanover Food Co-op, then the Littleton Food Co-op, and now the Monadnock Food Co-op have created Cooperative Community Funds (CCF) totaling more than $470,000 to support nonprofits in their communities. You'll  be amazed at what this active cooperation has achieved for tens of thousands of people in New Hampshire.

TPCF invests those endowments to spur cooperative development in the regions where the funds come from. The money is invested in co-op food markets and other types of co-ops, not in the stock market.

For example, TPCF has invested $700,000 in the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, whose largest program helps homeowners in manufactured-home (mobile-home) parks in N.H. form cooperatives and buy the parks they rent in. As of July 2017, the Community Loan Fund had funded nearly all of the state's 123 resident-owned communities, home to roughly 20,000 residents.

But follow the money of the three N.H. food co-ops whose funds were re-invested locally by TPCF in the Community Loan Fund.

In Grafton County, home to the Hanover and Littleton food co-ops, the Community Loan Fund has helped homeowners in 11 parks become resident owned cooperatives. The Littleton Food Co-op serves many people from next-door Coos County, where the Community Loan Fund has helped six resident cooperatives buy their parks.

Street-scene_Steve-Sheehan.jpg
Seventy-nine families who formerly rented land Polly Ann Park in Dover, N.H. became cooperative owners of their park in December 2016. The Community Loan Fund financed the purchase, using some of the $700,000 dollars invested by TPCF. Photo courtesy of Steve Sheehan

In Cheshire County, home of the Monadnock Food Co-op, 11 resident co-ops have bought their parks.

By helping these co-ops, the Community Loan Fund has helped almost 7,000 NH families to own not only their own homes, but cooperatively the land beneath their home. The approximately 20,000 residents have been transformed from renters to owners of their own parks.

When the Community Loan Fund first began, its second loan was to the Concord Food Co-op; a loan in 2016 helped the Littleton Food Co-op expand. When we keep cooperative money in our cooperative circle, we truly create Cooperation Among Cooperatives.

So please join us and "Give Where You Live." Consider rounding-up your payment next time you shop at a food co-op, or donating your patronage refund back to its CCF. Each dollar given to a CCF immediately leverages $10 to develop cooperatives locally and in your own state.

How’s that for cooperation?

To learn more, visit www.community.coop.

Juliana Eades is President of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund.

Opportunity. For all.

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