Traveling co-op quilt at BriarPatch through mid-June

It was 1997 and Ann Hoyt, one of the directors of the Urban Cooperative Initiative in Madison, Wisconsin, was trying to decide what to auction off for a co-op education fundraiser.

Hoyt had been traveling the country for a number of years, collecting co-op t-shirts when she’d explore other stores. Someone suggested making a quilt from those shirts and donating the creation to the auction.

Even though Hoyt wasn’t a seamstress, she knew where to find assistance. Anne Hopkins of Good Food Co-op in Lexington, Kentucky flew out to help. The general manager of Willy Street Co-op in Madison, WI, Anya Firszt, designed the quilt. The three cooperators spent four days assembling and sewing the quilt together. The hemming, binding, and finishing were done by Keiko Sakuma-Neubauer of Kokua Country Foods Co-op in Honolulu, Hawaii, starting the new co-op quilt on the national journey from which it would never leave.

The patchwork, bearing the logos of 54 co-ops across the country, inspired the creators to suggest sharing the living history. They chose to auction the quilt for the privilege of displaying it. A few years and two more co-op quilts later, one of those objects of pride is being displayed at BriarPatch Co-op through mid-June.

“The quilts are used each year as auction items for a fundraiser that supports the Howard Bowers Fund,” explained Chris Maher, BriarPatch Co-op General Manager.

The Howard Bowers Fund is named for a general manager of the Hyde Park Cooperative Society, a “first wave” co-op that was established during the Great Depression. Bowers dedicated five decades of his career to supporting cooperatives throughout the country. The total raised since the Fund’s creation is $91,845. The Howard Bowers Fund creates grants from those funds for new and about-to-open co-ops.

“The region of the country that raises the most money for the fund has the honor of displaying the quilts in their member stores throughout the year,” said Maher.

“BriarPatch Co-op is a member of the Western Corridor of the National Cooperative Grocer’s Association,” he said. “This year, the 37 co-ops in the region raised over $10,000 for the fund.”

—By Mellisa Hannum, BriarPatch

W&S

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