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North Quabbin co-op nears goal for funding

North Quabbin Community Coop in the Orange Inovation Center with Coop members Mary-Ann Palmieri of New Salem, George Roix of Athol, Ben Feldman of Athol and Tom Dean of Orange.
(Recorder file photo/Paul Franz)

North Quabbin Community Coop in the Orange Inovation Center with Coop members Mary-Ann Palmieri of New Salem, George Roix of Athol, Ben Feldman of Athol and Tom Dean of Orange. (Recorder file photo/Paul Franz)

ORANGE — Organizers of the North Quabbin Community Cooperative are closing in fast on their online fundraising goal of $7,500.

As the week began, they were just $250 shy of that mark. And with 10 days left to go in the online portion of the campaign, they hope to continue raising funds so they can open an expanded store in downtown Orange by late summer.

North Quabbin Cooperative Board President Amy Borezo said the campaign has also increased visibility for the expansion project as donors share the fundraising link on their Facebook pages. “There’s a lot of excitement for this (project relocating) downtown,” she said.

Over the past year, town officials expressed support for the effort as part of a greater economic development initiative to revitalize downtown with vibrant new businesses that support eco- and cultural tourism.

Currently, the cooperative, which has been operated exclusively by volunteers, is busting at the seams of its 250-square-foot corner in the Orange Innovation Center several blocks west of downtown.

With a vision of creating a larger, centrally located venue for locally produced food and crafts, coop organizers are in active negotiations to purchase the old Workers’ Credit Union across from Town Hall at 12 North Main St. Their expansion plans include hiring a store manager.

That space would have 1,500 square feet to house a full line of groceries and produce, including fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables, organic and natural foods, dairy foods, local cheeses and frozen meats.

“We can’t say for sure at this point, but we are hoping it becomes the space (of the expanded coop),” said Borezo. But whether or not the deal goes through, “we are committed to downtown … in a space with more visibility, more accessibility and good parking.”

According to Borezo, the group has raised a total of $50,000 since last July, including funds raised through their recent online campaign.

The total cost of the expansion is $150,000. She said co-op organizers expect to raise an additional $40,000 through additional memberships, loans from members, and other fundraising efforts. They plan to finance the remaining $60,000 through loans.

After the online campaign, Borezo said she and other organizers will begin a membership drive which kicks off on Saturday with a screening of “Food for Change,” a locally produced documentary about the history of food cooperatives. The screening will take place at the Central Congregational Church in Orange.

Then, organizers will travel to the other eight towns in the North Quabbin region to present information about the co-op and recruit new members. They aim to increase membership by 60 percent over the next few months, adding 150 new members to their current roster of 250.

For more information about the co-op’s expansion project, visit www.nqeats.org.

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