By Becky Colpitts, Community Outreach Coordinator
A little over a month ago, the pandemic hit our community amidst the North Country mountains. In an instant we watched our world change. Our mission – to provide a community owned marketplace that supports local and promotes healthy choices for people and planet – had not changed. Our vision – making our Food Co-op a catalyst for cultivating a vibrant community and regional economy – had not changed. Yet our world had changed, and we needed new ways to serve our beloved community.
Our intent is to be the best marketplace we possibly can be in the face of turbulent times. Many in our midst needed to isolate to keep themselves safe and healthy, yet they still needed the good, healthy food and earth-friendly products we provide. Thus, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, our Curbside Pick-Up service was born. This service is specifically for seniors 60 & older, people who are highly vulnerable to COVID-19, or people who are sick and staying isolated. This would help our friends and community members.
As a cooperative, guided always by our values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity, we set out to create a working system. We did this by collective brainstorming, to ensure all staff could contribute ideas. We did this by working together across departments leaning on one another. At first, our front-end was taking numerous phone orders while the store was incredibly busy. When someone came to pick up an order and the front end was busy, staff from other departments stepped out of their original role to make sure those groceries were safely delivered to the car. Individuals from deli, produce, grocery, and the administrative offices came willing and cheerfully to the rescue. Now, with the expertise of our marketing gurus, we have an online ordering system. We are a Cooperative, and we are proud to be so. I must say though, while those initial days were filled with some intense personal moments, we supported each other through it all.
Many of you know Audrey from the Service Desk. A small woman with sparkling eyes and a smile that brightens up the day. Audrey is now our Co-op Curbside Wizard, heading up this initiative to keep it running smoothly. “I love it. It’s getting easier, and our set-up is more professional,” Audrey states. Audrey takes, fills and rings up orders before calling for payment and pick-up information. When the customer arrives, she brings the orders out to the cars. She is the go-to person for on the ground feedback about how this new initiative is working.
In fact, there are several staffers working hard to create this smooth-running, new system. Sarah takes orders, shops, rings up, calls, and delivers to the cars. When asked about her thoughts, she smiled from behind her mask (twinkling eyes never lie) and said: “I enjoy providing a valuable human community service!” Audrey quickly agreed.
Mel, our Front-end Matriarch, knows customer service backwards and forwards. She has a heart of gold and goes all the way to make a good idea come to fruition. When sharing her experience, she beamed. “I really enjoy our curbside service,” she said. “It’s our way of giving back to the community and members. We’re able to put our own special touches on each order.”
Kylie, Anastasia, Sheridan, and Meg are also regulars on the Curbside crew, performing all the tasks and keeping their attitude positive. We are all so grateful for their participation here at the Co-op! And, judging by the comments we receive from our Members and customers, the wider community is very thankful to have this service in place. Each of our hearts has opened even wider as people share their stories and how grateful they are that the Co-op is here for them. It feels like family- really. A big virtual hug from the Co-op to you! Stay safe, stay well, and see ya (from a 6 foot distance) at the Co-op.