In January 2020, BriarPatch Food Co-op (BPFC) created PatchWorks, a new community volunteer program encouraging active, sustained volunteerism that improves the health of the people who live and work in rural Nevada County, Northern California. BPFC is a community-owned grocery store based in Grass Valley, California started in 1976. The Co-op supports a thriving local food system and healthy community through collaboration and philanthropy. The cooperative model is based on the idea that the business is built in service to its community. Co-ops are for profit, not only so that they can recirculate revenue back into the local economy, but also provide resources to generate goodwill, transparent communication, advocacy and relationship building. The PatchWorks program builds cooperation and resiliency between The Co-op, its 10,334 membership-based owners, 13 nonprofit organizations called “Nonprofit Neighbors “and the community at large. Nonprofit Neighbors are chosen based on the merits that most closely align with The Co-op’s Ends Policies, the guiding star of BPFC values. The PatchWorks program also meets the 7th Cooperative Principle, Concern for Community. In 2020, PatchWorks volunteers worked to meet the needs of a community bracing with the challenges of COVID-19. Volunteers helped to: monitor and clean up rivers and streams, build walking trails, provide services to homeless populations, feed the hungry, find homes for abandoned pets, connect school kids with locally grown food, provide nutrition and sustainability education, connect local farmers with consumers and create wildfire safe neighborhoods.
Volunteers work up to 12 hours a month and can choose from 13 Nonprofit Neighbors that focus on addressing important issues like environmental conservation, homelessness, feeding the hungry and teaching youth about healthy eating. In exchange for their volunteer hours, they receive 15% off up to two shopping trips to The Co-op per month. Many of our local nonprofit organizations would not survive without the valuable donated labor from volunteers. Nonprofit Neighbors enrolled in the PatchWorks program include: Bear Yuba Land Trust, Hospitality House, Interfaith Food Ministry, Sammie’s Friends, Nevada County Media, The Food Bank of Nevada County, Sierra Harvest, Sierra Streams Institute, South Yuba River Citizens League, The Friendship Club, Nevada City Farmers Market, Nevada County Habitat for Humanity, and Firesafe Council of Nevada County.
PatchWorks started as an avenue for shoppers to make a difference in our community and get an awesome discount at their local co-op. Designed to be a conduit for reciprocity, PatchWorks creates positive, meaningful and lasting impact in our community through participation and cooperation between BPFC, its shoppers and local nonprofits. By creating a link for people who want to make the world better with allied nonprofits that need support - PatchWorks facilitates a means for important work to get done that benefits the greater good and health of us all. The program strives to provide exponential benefits with a ripple effect, improving the health of the land, water, air, wildlife, the people and the local economy. The program serves a rural Northern California Foothill community that includes the neighborhoods of Grass Valley, Nevada City, Penn Valley, Chicago Park, Rough and Ready and North San Juan.
In 2020, PatchWorks evolved to fit the needs of a community responding to the pandemic. As of September, the program grew beyond its initial capacity to 124 volunteers, and grows. All BriarPatch shoppers are invited to apply to the program, in turn receive 15% off up to two shopping trips per month. Between Jan 1 – Oct. 27, 2020, volunteers have received $8,251 in discounts for their donated time. Many of PatchWorks volunteers are seniors and this discount is significantly more than The Co-op’s senior discount of 2%. Devoted volunteers step up month after month (while practicing COVID-19 safety protocols), and by September had donated 1,612 hours. Volunteers saved cash-strapped local nonprofit organizations $43,834.70 in labor costs* by donating their time through the PatchWorks program. “We saw an increase in the number of new volunteers when we joined the program. The dedication and consistency we have seen from PatchWorks volunteers is remarkable and critical to the success of our projects,” said Chloe Tremper, Volunteer Manager Sierra Streams Institute. Not only does The Co-op provide “human resources” to local nonprofits and help volunteers by shaving their monthly grocery expenses, BPFC acts as a highly visible and effective marketing and communications arm of the community. BriarPatch is another voice for nonprofit organizations, by communicating and elevating important missions to a broader audience through a variety of news and media channels, articles, press releases, email newsletters and social media. *One volunteer hour = $27.20, source: https://independentsector.org/value-of-volunteer-time-2020/
“Volunteer work is the necessary lifeblood of many nonprofits and the PatchWorks program has provided our shoppers opportunities to learn about and engage in the great work that is going on, to uplift our community and provide valuable resources for these organizations to continue to thrive. The 15% off incentive is secondary to the satisfaction and camaraderie in helping their neighbors for many of these folks who participate. Even with the struggles of COVID-19, we’ve worked with our Nonprofit Neighbors to find other means of volunteer work and the program has continued to evolve. We have all learned resiliency through this process,” – Chris Maher, General Manager, BriarPatch Food Co-op
“Sierra Harvest’s mission is to transform lives and strengthen community through fresh, local, seasonal food. We are extremely fortunate to have the support of BriarPatch Food Co-op for many years: Marketing our programs to their audience, donating thousands of dollars toward our Farm to School Program and our events. However, because of their exceptional volunteer program and incentives, we have also been the recipient of many passionate volunteers. We rely on hundreds of volunteers to keep our programs thriving to serve our community with the best nutrition education possible, train farmers to be successful, glean produce for families in need and help families grow their own food. We can only achieve these goals through the support of these dedicated volunteers. We are grateful to BriarPatch for their outstanding support of our work that keeps our community healthy, strong and thriving!” - Miriam Limov, Farm Institute Associate, Sierra Harvest