Leverett Village Co-op getting on better footing, fundraising with telethon

  • The Leverett Village Co-op in Leverett. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Tom Siefert waits on Gillian Budine of Wendell at Leverett Village Co-op. Siefert is training to be a volunteer at the store. STAFF PHOTOS/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A bench and a community bulletin board greet visitors to Leverett Village Co-op in Leverett. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Paul Rosenberg, 68, holds a bottle of organic Riojana wine at the Leverett Village Co-op. Rosenberg is the volunteer interim general manager, a position he began eight months ago. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 9/18/2020 6:44:24 PM
Modified: 9/18/2020 6:44:12 PM

As the closest place for some people to get groceries, a cup of coffee, beer and wine, or a sandwich for lunch, the Leverett Village Co-op is continuing its efforts to pay off debt and remain viable through a virtual fundraising telethon.

Known as the Rattlesnake Gutter Festival, the event, which begins online Sept. 25 at noon at leverettcoop.com/events-at-the-co-op/, will feature a silent auction, music and dance, farm tours and a membership drive.

Event organizer and board member Karen Traub said the festival was developed after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the activities committee to cancel a party to celebrate those who helped pay down a debt that approached $200,000 and nearly caused the dissolution of the co-op.

“When we got an anonymous challenge pledge of $7,500, a livestreamed event seemed like the perfect cross between a festival and a telethon,” Traub said.

Board President Samuel Black said the co-op is in a much better place than it was last fall.

“Debts to local businesses and larger-scale food suppliers are paid off, and other debts have been consolidated and will be paid off as becomes necessary,” Black said.

The co-op has also installed new refrigerators and freezers, made needed repairs to the building and is in search of a full-time general manager, as it aims to increase revenue by 50 percent to offset staff salaries.

Community donations and loans were also supplemented by a forgivable federal Payroll Protection Program loan, a 30-year fixed-interest Emergency Injury and Disaster Loan, and support from the state’s Food Security Infrastructure Protection Program.

Among those who will be performing at the festival are the Wildcat O’Halloran Band, Boys of the Landfill, the Wendell Warriors drum circle, flutist Laura Botkin and the Crescent Dancers. Dean Cycon of the fair-trade coffee company Dean’s Beans and documentary filmmaker Steve Alves will both talk about building healthy local economies and why Franklin County is special.

Tours will include interviews with food suppliers and conservationists — including the owners of Diemand Farm in Wendell and Apex Orchards in Shelburne Falls, and Jono Neiger of the Regenerative Design Group, which planted a permaculture garden and fruit trees behind the co-op — as well as a visit to the state’s largest privately owned conservation restricted land, the Paul C. Jones Working Forest in Leverett.

Throughout the festival, numerous items and services — including original artwork, a private Zoom cooking class and landscaping services by Grass Roots — will be part of a silent auction, which wraps up with a live auction during the telethon between 4 and 6 p.m. Auction items will be bid on through the co-op’s website at leverettcoop.com.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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