As most of you know, Hampden Park Co-op is in the midst of deep change. In May of 2015, an outside auditor presented the HPC Board of Directors with a written review, notifying the board of a substantial financial risk associated with our volunteer program, which is in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. While this risk had been noted before, the auditor’s report articulated a dollar value to the potential tax liabilities and fines, which would threaten the co-op’s future.
Since last May, the board has actively sought outside legal opinions, exhaustively reviewed the history and current status of volunteer programs in other cooperatives, and created talking circles to meet with current and past volunteers to share information and compare notes on what, if any, options were available. With the federal law’s strict interpretation of what it means to volunteer, and the substantial financial risk that the cooperative faced in ignoring these laws, the board made the difficult decision to end the current volunteer program at their April 2016 meeting.
The last shifts available in the store are May 31, 2016. Discounts will continue through the end of June. For volunteers whose accumulated hours extend beyond June 30, gift certificates will be provided based on the dollar amount of their average monthly discount over the past few months.
We are working hard internally to find ways to cover the many, many tasks that volunteers have done over the years and we are looking at providing some paid worker-owner shifts for current volunteers who are open to being paid for their work.
This is a difficult change. While the conversation has been happening for many months, it still feels sudden, and there are a lot of questions about the future of the co-op. What is clear is that the sense of community that you feel here is a fundamental value that we want to preserve.
In the spirit of staying connected, you are invited to a potluck picnic in the park across the street from the co-op on Saturday, June 25, 5–7 pm, to celebrate our cooperative history and talk about opportunities for the future. This includes a sign-up sheet for members who would like to help form a nonprofit 501(c)(3), Friends of Hampden Park Co-op. The membership committee will be on hand to share more information. Additionally, volunteers and members are welcome to participate in the Membership Committee, which meets at the first Tuesday of every month.
I want to assure all of you that while we are working hard to get our heads and hearts around these changes, the staff at the co-op (many of whom started as volunteers) are visioning how we support the future of Hampden Park Co-op. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to serve such a strong and thoughtful team. As we move forward, I invite you to reach out to me directly to share your questions and concerns. I won’t have all the answers, but I believe and trust in the collective wisdom of the Hampden Park Co-op community. So while we may not all think alike when it comes to the next steps for HPC, I know that our love of this co-op will sustain us through this change and into a future that honors the deep roots and history of this community.
Hampden Park Co-op General Manager