Company : BriarPatch Food Co-op
Program category : 2024 CUAs Health Neighborhood Health


In January 2020, our PatchWorks volunteer program was launched to build strong, mutually beneficial relationships with its “Nonprofit Neighbors” and owner-shopper-volunteers. As a food co-op, BriarPatch places a high value on efforts to strengthen the communities it serves. This all-in approach to being a good neighbor is the underlying motivation for PatchWorks, which provides a framework for owner-shoppers to receive rewards while getting involved in activities that lift the community. Participating Co-op owners who work at least six hours a month at an approved nonprofit receive 15 percent off a shopping trip the following month. Twelve hours or more earns two discounted shopping trips.


In 2020, the store did not truly foresee the impact that the pandemic would have on the nonprofits in its rural community. Monetary donations remained an obvious critical necessity, yet the loss of volunteers during this time was a punch felt with similar gravity. PatchWorks could supply nonprofits with the volunteer workforce they needed. BriarPatch is a cooperative, meaning its existence and the work it does is, by definition, for the benefit of the community, and the new volunteer program couldn’t come at a better time, offering families, friends, neighbors and strangers many opportunities to do something during a time when it often felt difficult to know what to do. The opening of our second store in 2023 allowed for program expansion into two additional counties and a new community. Our volunteer base has grown as well as the number of “Nonprofit Neighbors” and the breadth of community services provided.


PatchWorks is designed to bring together volunteers who want to get involved in and give back to the community with nonprofit organizations that rely on such labor to fulfill their missions. The diversity and sheer number of these “Nonprofit Neighbor” partners affords a broad variety of volunteer opportunities. In this way, we spread our support across the myriad of areas in which these organizations work to enhance and lift the quality of life for all of us. Volunteers receive a “thank you” in the form of shopping discounts – it's a winning situation for all. Nonprofit organizations undergo an application and vetting process, and volunteer hours are tracked in an online system, allowing for reliable accounting and measurement of the program’s impact.


Currently, the Co-op has signed 19 “Nonprofit Neighbors” organizations to the program. They submit volunteer hours to BriarPatch and pledge to promote PatchWorks through their marketing channels. Nonprofits include local food banks, environmental organizations, a farmers' market, a homeless shelter, senior services, an animal shelter and an organization dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion. The 538 enrolled volunteers have worked 51,214 hours since its inception, valued at $1,533,859 in labor hours, based on the national average of $29.95/hour. Some specific impacts that PatchWorks volunteers have made include delivering firewood to remote seniors, removing invasive species from native woodlands and watersheds and preparing meals for families in need. Volunteers have earned over $107,000 in shopping discounts at the store. The volunteer base's demographic has changed to more families of various ages. Households are encouraged to volunteer together and pool their hours.


“Frankly, we are stunned-and exhilarated-by the response PatchWorks has received from our shoppers and area nonprofits. The program’s impact is tangible in its numbers. We are a small, tight-knit community, and the positive force it’s had is felt and seen all the time.”

- Chris Maher, General Manager, BriarPatch Food Co-op

Support Statement:

“Sierra Harvest is a nonprofit based in Nevada City, California dedicated to transforming lives and strengthening our community through fresh, local, seasonal food. We can only achieve our goals through the support of dedicated, passionate, and wonderful volunteers willing to devote their time and skills to our mission. The PatchWorks program connects eager community members to local organizations to make a difference in the community. The best part is that the volunteers get rewarded for their dedicated time in service! As a proud Nonprofit Neighbor, we are so grateful for how actively BriarPatch Food Co-op collaborates with and promotes volunteer opportunities in our community. Co-op members who have opted in for PatchWorks have been imperative to our mission; from keeping our educational farm alive and well to gleaning local produce and delivering to local food banks and making our fundraising events possible!”

- Sierra Giannoni, Office Administrator, Sierra Harvest