1. What spurred you to start Compassion Coalition?
We started in 2000 as a result of seeing the increasing unmet needs of the less fortunate of our area were experiencing. I was heading out of town on a business trip and picked up our local newspaper, and the front page showed that food pantries were running out of food mid year with no funds left to buy more food to help those they served. We felt that there was more than enough surplus from local distribution centers to more than meet the need and we were right. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t something that was being done, but we felt that this was a new way of solving such a hard issue.
2. You often refer to Compassion Coalition Inc. as being entrepreneurial, can you tell us 3 things that make it entrepreneurial?
a) Entrepreneurial in DESIGN
-Designed to be self-sustaining and so never dependent upon any outside funding source that may be reduced or cut. This has allowed CC to grow year after year in a healthy and consistent manner.
b) Entrepreneurial in STRATEGY
-Along with the food and personal care items we distribute to our more than 150 member agencies, we focus on specific and dramatic needs that arise in our community that are often either overlooked or lacking funding and strive to meet that need.
c) Entrepreneurial in EXECUTION
-When we discover a lack we reach out to our network of partners and search for the product and resources needed at minimal to no cost in so doing we have been able to give well over $20 million dollars a year away in product. As we are growing so is our giving! In 2017 we increased our output to well over $30 million in product!
3. The non profit grocery store concept has become a HUGE hit across the United States, what made you think of this concept 18 years ago?
-We needed a way to fund CC and I could see that going to the same sources for the same dollars as every other non profit was both competitive and uncertain from year to year. Funding that was available in year one disappeared or was severely cut in year two or three leaving the not for profit no choice but to cut back services or sometimes close down. I knew that growing up in the grocery and produce industry that there was more than enough discarded or rejected loads to not only help our surrounding communities with food accessibility at reduced pricing, but to allow CC to be able to be self sustaining. We choose the more difficult path of creating our own source of revenue and it has served us well for over 18 years.
4. Can this model be replicated in other cities in the United States?
-Yes but it would need some initial mentoring and oversight until it was established. We are currently working with 2 groups in NYS trying to help replicate this model in their areas.
*CC refers to Compassion Coalition Inc.