Congratulations to this year's Community Fund grant recipients!

The River Valley Co-op Community Fund generated $6,000 in earnings for distribution as grants to local nonprofits for 2021. River Valley Co-op's Board of Directors selected six grant proposals from 12 applications to receive $1,000 each. The successful grant applicants announced October 2nd were the Pascommuck Conservation Trust, LightHouse Holyoke, The People's Medicine Project, The Sojourner Truth School for Social Change Leadership, Hope on Wheels and the Nolumbeka Project!

Board President Dorian Gregory said, "It is a heart-warming task to review the Cooperative Community Fund grant proposals. It is an honor to support such a variety of important community needs with these six $1,000 grants."

This year's grant award winners vary widely in their areas of focus: preservation of forests and farmland, access to restorative collaborative learning education for students in grades 7–12, addressing community health disparities with access to alternative medicine, providing free leadership training for social change, providing portable "alternative homes" as a transitionary step between homelessness and a more traditional living situation, and promoting a deeper, broader and more truthful understanding of Native Americans of the Northeast.

In 2013 River Valley Co-op’s Board of Directors established The River Valley Co-op Community Fund, a nonprofit charitable foundation. The River Valley Co-op Community Fund is managed by the Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation / Co-op Community Fund (TPCF/CCF). The River Valley Co-op Community Fund is one of 40 individual food co-op community funds participating in this Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation program. River Valley Co-op’s fund is aggregated with those of the other food co-ops from our region and invested to support co-op development in the Northeast. The patient capital the fund provides is important for leveraging the additional loan capital needed for regional co-op development. In turn, the annual earnings from the investments are donated to local nonprofits selected by the co-ops participating in the Co-op Community Fund. The forty individual food co-ops participating in this program have now donated over $500,000 to regional nonprofits.

How the River Valley Co-op Community Fund Works

The co-op has built its community fund to over $165,000 since 2013 with donations from its business, its co-op owners and matching funds from some of its vendors. The funds are invested in a variety of regional co-op projects. The annual earnings of River Valley Co-op’s Community Fund are then donated to local nonprofits selected by the Board of Directors. For 2021, there were $6,000 in earnings from the fund’s investments in regional co-ops that supported six $1,000 River Valley Co-op Community Fund grants for local nonprofits.

The Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation Co-op Community Fund has $4 million in total assets with $2.4 million invested in the Northeast. TPCF/CCF is the largest co-op organization funder in the United States of the three main lenders of patient capital to food and other cooperatives. David Thompson, president of the Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation, describes the Co-op Community fund as the financial yeast that makes Co-op bread rise.

Why the Co-op Community Fund is Important to River Valley Co-op

The co-op community fund is a program that enables River Valley Co-op to invest in cooperative development in our region.

This is a way to support the cooperative movement and to pay it forward for the support that River Valley Co-op received in their start-up, including $600,000 in funding from 50 individual food co-ops across the country in 2007. That $600,000 was key to River Valley Co-op’s final financing for the building and opening of the Northampton co-op store.

Rochelle Prunty, General Manager of River Valley Co-op said, “Cooperation among cooperatives is an important co-op principle, and participation in this cooperative development fund is one way we operationalize this principle. The innovative work of the Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation and the cooperative-focused funding organizations they support with patient investment capital has helped launch hundreds of co-ops in our region and hundreds more across the country as well.”

The River Valley Co-op Community Fund is just one program the co-op utilizes to support non-profits and other cooperatives. Since its opening in 2008, River Valley Co-op has made over $1 million in donations, in-kind contributions, and sponsorships to support hundreds of non-profits that support the community and the cooperative movement.

More about the nonprofits that received 2021 Co-op Community Fund grants:

The Pascommuck Conservation Trust

The Pascommuck Conservation Trust (PCT) is a 501(3)(C) non-profit, all-volunteer land trust organization, established in 1982, whose mission is to protect important land and other natural resources in Easthampton for the public benefit. PCT has no paid staff and relies on volunteers, donations and the support of the community and its partners to carry out its mission. Current membership is approximately 200 people. A 14-member Board of Directors guides the organization’s efforts and meets monthly.

Early priorities of the Trust included establishing a greenbelt along Easthampton’s ecologically important Manhan River. The Manhan River corridor continues to be a focus area for the organization, as it is the major tributary from the City flowing into the Connecticut River. At present, the Trust stewards a total of 16 properties in Easthampton, comprising approximately 190 acres. Thirteen properties are conservation areas, eight have marked trails, one is a park, and two are conservation areas with Agricultural Preservation Restrictions (APR). Several of their properties connect to various neighborhoods throughout Easthampton, providing easy access to nature and passive recreation for the surrounding residents. Other elements of their work include community environmental education, advocacy and consultation on local and municipal environmental issues, a yearly scholarship award, public outreach via newsletters and social media and biannual plant sales.


LightHouse Holyoke

LightHouse Holyoke is located in downtown Holyoke, MA, an urban center with high poverty and other issues common to urban centers. However, a renaissance is happening here, and LightHouse is at the epicenter. Their personalized program is an excellent example of the forward-thinking breakthroughs happening throughout the city. 

They are a collaborative learning environment for students in grades 7-12, structured around mutual respect and compassion founded in 2015. With a foundation in research-based and restorative practices, LightHouse’s full-day educational program encourages students to reimagine their identities and capabilities, as they each build a path forward based on their unique strengths, interests, and passions.

They serve students in grades 7-12. Most of their students come from Holyoke or nearby urban Springfield, though they do have students coming from 12 surrounding suburban and rural towns in total, including Northampton and Easthampton.


People’s Medicine Project

People's Medicine Project is a health justice project that is part of a larger Holyoke-based umbrella organization called the Western MA Training Consortium. Their mission is to address community health disparities* by increasing access to alternative health care. They envision an empowered culture of health, based on connection to our bodies, each other, and the natural world. They work toward this vision on multiple levels including direct care; bridge-building with mainstream health providers; coalition building and collaborative programs with agencies, collectives, and nonprofits; community workshops and skill shares; and more! (*Health disparities are differences in health outcomes between groups of people that are caused by systems of oppression.)

They are rooted in, and responsive to our community’s needs. Over the years, through partnering with local organizations and practitioners, their work has expanded to provide innovative responses to specific health crises, such as the opioid epidemic and COVID-19; while keeping the broader vision on wellness for all.


Nolumbeka Project

The mission of the Nolumbeka Project is to promote a deeper, broader and more truthful understanding of the Native Americans of the Northeast before and during colonization to the present; to assist in the preservation and protection of sites of historical and cultural significance to the tribes; to create and promote related educational and cultural events; and to work in partnership, whenever possible, with the tribes.

The Nolumbeka Project is dedicated to honoring the Native American Legacy through historical research, sacred site documentation and protection, land stewardship, traditional Native gardening and heritage seed preservation, public advocacy, educational programs, and cultural events. The Native American Legacy of Connection and Sustainability is crucial to the planet at this point in history.


Hope on Wheels

For people experiencing homelessness, finding a safe, sheltered place to stay is a constant challenge. In an effort to help address this issue, Northampton resident Melinda Shaw envisions a set of portable, “alternative homes,” comprising a bike and camper pod, as a transitionary step between homelessness and a more traditional living situation.

Shaw started the project, called “Hope on Wheels,” in response to what she sees as inadequate resources available to the homeless community. Part of Shaw’s inspiration for the project came from her work with First Churches of Northampton, where she helped to run a cot shelter and distribute resources to the homeless.


Sojourner Truth School for Social Change Leadership

The School offers classes to individuals and groups with the goal of promoting and facilitating concrete movement-building. The trainers teach the organizing skills necessary to equip people to be active, effective and empowered. The School’s sole focus is on teaching and training and learning from one another. They do this by bringing together people interested in a variety of issues and interests in learning new skills and information. The School is a place where people new to civic engagement can learn alongside more seasoned activists and have an effective experience for either honing or learning new skills.

The School provides 40+ classes per semester, all now on zoom and there are over 800 participants throughout the semester. All classes are FREE in order to make sure everyone who wants to participate is able to join.

Previous Recipients:

  • Common Good
  • Julius Ford Harriet Tubman Healthy Living Community
  • Women's Fund of Western Massachusetts
  • Easthampton Neighbors
  • Pioneer Valley Power Pack
  • Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Gardening the Community
  • Sojourner Truth School for Social Change Leadership
  • Sojouner Truth Memorial Committee
  • Friends of Hampshire County Homeless
  • Cutchins Programs for Children and Families
  • Help Yourself, Inc.
  • Prospect Meadow Farm
  • Sunnyside Child Care

About the River Valley Co-op Community Fund

The River Valley Co-op Community Fund is a nonprofit charitable foundation established by River Valley Co-op's Board of Directors in 2013. The River Valley Co-op Community Fund is one of 40 individual food co-op funds which are aggregated for investment in cooperative development. The earnings of River Valley Co-op’s Community Fund can be donated to local nonprofits selected by the co-op, while the invested funds continue to support co-op development in our region. The River Valley Co-op Community Fund is administered by the Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation. We’ve built up our funds with donations from our co-op, our co-op owners, and matching funds from some of our vendors to $165,000 over the last few years.

David Thompson, President of the Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation explains, “There is much to be thankful for in the world of food cooperatives. Through a series of good deeds and contributions from co-ops, funders, and vendors, the Cooperative Community Fund (CCF) grew in 2015 by leveraging another $3 million of much-needed funds for co-op development. We call growing these funds the Give Where You Live Campaign. Each local fund serves as a means for local co-op owners, shoppers, and vendors to make donations to an endowment that donates to local nonpro t organizations.”

Links to Owners

The Cooperative Community Fund program is the leader in developing linkages to co-op owners. No other national donation program run by food co-ops gets its message to so many co-op owners and customers. No other national program raises as much money from food co-op owners and customers to give back to the communities that our food co-ops serve. The 40 CCF food co-op sponsors of our Give Where You Live program have now donated over $500,000 to local nonprofits.

The capacity of the CCF grows every year. Impact through regional reinvesting pursues reinvesting the funds it receives from each region back into development organizations that fund cooperative development in that same region. David Thompson said, “In this way, the CCF capital works hard for co-ops in the regions from whence it came. Successful co-op development occurs when all of the ships in the co-op convoy arrive safely at the same port. Among the different ships in the co-op convoy are: members, boards, lawyers, accountants, consultants, developers, bankers, and funders. By all of us being engaged in cooperative development together, we can shave years off our shared voyage.”

The Board will use the interest generated annually by the fund to make donations to qualifying local nonprofit organizations that contribute to the quality of life of Pioneer Valley residents.