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From the Archives: The Loan Drives That Didn’t Feel Good 1978

By Natalie Criscione

“Loans will be accepted in the store starting May 1, 1978. If it feels good, do it.”

It was a clever idea. It was different. It was not the typical bake sale or rummage sale idea. It was not a concert, dance, movie night, or dinner. It was not member dues. It was a different type of fundraising activity. It was a Loan Drive.  

However, as enthusiastic as members were about their new Co-op, and as much as they may have loved other fundraisers, member loans were not easy to come by. Even with requests for as little as  $20, few members participated in the first two drives.

In September of ‘76, the first loan drive was launched to little or no fanfare; members were reminded about it again in October with an emphatic announcement in the Coop Scoop: “Hey, People!! The co-op is now accepting interest-free loans. We told you in the last newsletter--remember!” By February of 1977, $1,500 had been raised, which, although notable, was reportedly “far short of the amount needed for opening,” and a subsequent reminder was included in the March ‘77 edition.  

Despite what was needed and with little explanation regarding the shortfall, the storefront managed to open anyway and, before the loans were paid back, a second loan drive was launched the following year.  

This time the plan was to raise $1,500 between May 1st and July 1st, 1978.  Again, requests were made for $20 or more to be loaned (interest-free) with the promise that they would be paid back within “one to three years.” Money was now needed for additional food purchases, new shelves, and the possibility of further store expansion.  

By May 17th, 1978, however, only a single donor had contributed to the drive with a generous $100 loan and, by the end of June, a second loan donation had been added to raise the total to $130.  The desperate headline in the Coop Scoop used the word “Floundering” to describe the failing loan drive and a final desperate plea was issued: “The Co-op needs your money not because it is failing, but because it is succeeding.”

Fortunately, the membership laxity represented in the first loan drives neither foreshadowed the Co-op’s future nor the outcome of subsequent drives. In the late summer/fall of 1979, over $2,000 was raised through member loans, and another drive began in August of the following year. Membership numbers increased, the tried and true fundraisers continued, members eventually became accustomed to yearly requests for loans, and, with the glorious power of hindsight, we know that store expansion happened, shelves were filled, and the Co-op became an essential part of the community.  

And, that feels good!

Natalie Criscione remembers shopping at the Quail st. Honest Weight location. She wears many hats: educator, writer, artist, musician, property manager, advocate, and volunteer. She loves being part of the Coop Scoop team!


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