Vancouver organic food co-op on edge of closure

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) - A nonprofit grocery store is struggling under the weight of unpaid co-op debts and a dearth of volunteers who promised to help out.

The Vancouver Food Cooperative approved its charter and bylaws in 2009, established an online store and opened a member-owned-and-operated store downtown. Its mission is to provide local, organic and healthy food.

But the cooperative is close to dissolving without a quick infusion of volunteers, The Columbian reports ( http://bit.ly/1ay1mp3).

Not only are the people who originally signed up not coming through with one-time member dues that capitalize the store's operations, they're also not volunteering and not even shopping at the store enough to keep it viable.

"After much deliberation, the board has come to the conclusion that the co-op cannot be sustained in its current form," the board of directors wrote. "Without resources to operate the store and volunteers to perform the corporate work of the organization, we see no choice but to close the store and dissolve the organization.

Despite a membership of more than 400, there's been a core of around 15 who are involved in running the store.

The co-op has grown 4 to 5 percent per month since opening, and now pulls in revenue of about $20,000 per month.

Founders say that makes the likely closure even harder to accept.

"We are frustratingly close" to achieving success, said board president Kirk Wright.

Membership in the Vancouver Food Cooperative costs $180, payable in installments or all at once.

The organization needs volunteers who do the work of "middle management," Wright said _ people who will help plan, build systems and spread the word to the community.

"We haven't done the job we could have done in terms of ... a clear explanation of what this is," he said. "We haven't gotten the message quite right."

Equipment breakdowns added to the challenge of flattening sales earlier this year.

"If we had a dozen people who stepped up and really committed to being involved," he said, "it might make the difference."


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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