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Co-operatives Bringing Down the House

May 14, 2009

Trailer Park Co-op for Women

Teresa Phillips

Teresa Phillips

Teresa Phillips grew up not expecting much. She had come from a dysfunctional family with a history of substance abuse, and no support or other family to guide her. She was alone and trusted no one. When she moved to a trailer park in Battle Creek, Michigan ten years ago, all she wanted to do was keep her three young daughters safe and healthy.

She met another woman named Melissa Cook in the trailer park with a similar situation. But Melissa’s attitude was different.

She became my greatest source of strength and support because she believed life was what you made it. (Teresa Phillips said of her friend Melissa Cook)

One day Teresa broke down—she looked in her freezer to make dinner for her children but only had two pork chops, not enough to feed her three children. Teresa ran to Melissa’s house and broke down in tears, but Melissa looked in her fridge (to which she had many vegetables) and had an idea: Why not combine our resources? Hence, an informal co-op for women began. Teresa and Melissa thought that other mothers in the trailer park could combine resources, such as food and clothes, so that all of their children would be safe and healthy.

Teresa and Melissa got enough members that a local church donated a few rooms (including an office) for them to work out of. The cooperative, called the Woman’s Co-op, now serves 180 women members. You can read more about some of those women’s stories here.

Mission and description of Woman’s Co-op

Women succeeding in all aspects of their lives; operating to build a stronger community.

Woman’s Co-op seeks to enhance and improve the quality of lives of our Women in our community through Education, developmental programs and a variety of support services. The Woman’s Co-op can empower, improve, and change women’s lives. We provide supports such as scholarships for schooling and peer counseling.

Teresa and Melissa are not the only women forming cooperatives for other women in need like themselves.

Women and men form cooperatives all over the world. I remember in the small town of Tamegroute, Morocco (while in the Peace Corps) there were several cooperatives functioning in the town: the Youth Association, the Pottery Cooperative, etc.

Why am I mentioning cooperatives on a feminist blog?

Well, the majority of co-operatives around the world are formed because of the lack of quality health care, education, and financial services. And the majority of those negatively affected by health, education, and finance are women.

Some co-operatives are small and some are associated with big organizations and foundations. But these co-operatives are important in getting women, children, and men adequate resources in order to live healthy lives. These co-operatives are needed not just in underdeveloped countries, but also needed for people in the U.S. like Teresa Phillips. The mission of these co-operatives are a fight for people’s rights which make up a vital part of the feminist movement.

What are some of your favorite co-operatives and organizations that fight for people’s rights?

Feel free to leave your favorite co-operatives/organizations in the comments!

Source: The Story (an NPR show which you can download through iTunes), W.K. Kellogg Foundation

One Comment
  1. Carrie permalink
    May 15, 2009 4:08 pm

    Thank you for posting this. With our culture’s obsession with feminist in-fighting and competitiveness between women so prevalent in the media recently (that NY Times article about workplace bullying, and the controversy over Double X come to mind), it’s so refreshing and inspiring to hear about women working together and creating community like this. Not to mention that co-ops are totally feminist and rarely get discussed in such a context.

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