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There’s been a Co-op store in my local town, Upton-upon-Severn, since 1901. It has served its community in many different ways over the last 100 years and has a familiarity with the people who live here. It plays a big part in our lives. I had been retired for 13 years when the Store Manager suggested I’d be perfect for the role of a Member Pioneer. Now, almost five years later, I’m still in the role, doing what I love and what seems like a natural extension of who I am.  

One of the most exciting things when I started was being told to be myself. This meant acting as a community connector and knowing my local area inside and out. My role is all about making things happen and bringing people together in my community.  

The Co-op way  

The primary role of our local Co-op is to feed the community. But what people don’t always know is that Co-op is a business with a difference. It’s owned by members, not big investors or shareholders. Co-op membership isn’t just a rewards card for customers, it’s a way to make a difference to local communities. Being a Member Pioneer is all about helping to facilitate this difference.   

I’ve spent the last 5 years working with local causes and charities in my area and building relationships with the people involved. This would never have come about without the Co-op's help. As a Member Pioneer, it’s up to me to bring Co-op into the heart of the community, collaborating with others to make a positive difference together.  

How I’ve helped my own community  

So many good things have happened since I started my role, and I feel lucky to have been part of it. The Local Community Fund has helped so many grass roots organisations to continue the great work they do. 

We’ve helped the Scouts to buy new camping gear, local festivals to purchase new equipment, and the Upton Educational Fund to buy books and equipment for their studies. Upton in Bloom have used the Local Community Fund to fill our town with beautiful flowers, and the Queenhill & District WI help maintain and save spaces in our area. This is just a small part of the impact we’ve made in the community. Other activities have been organizing a Jazz Festival to inspire young musicians, and a Fairy Book Hunt activity which encourages families to read together.  

A brighter future  

Co-op’s community mission is to build stronger and more resilient communities. This includes offering fair access to food, mental wellbeing services, and education and employment opportunities for young people. And all of this is aligned to Co-op's vision of co-operating for a fairer world. 

In October 2019, I began conversations with the local Baptist Church Minister about Co-op’s Food Share Programme. For some time, she had wanted to start a scheme which supported loving food and preventing food waste. This aligns with Co-op’s mission for fair access to food, so with the help of Co-op and Hubbub, we were able to set up a community fridge to share food to those in need. 

The community fridge has been a huge asset to our community already - it shows the work of Member Pioneers really makes a difference. I will continue to find doors to open, relationships to build, and make a better community to live and work in. 

Ruth Etheridge, 

Member Pioneer