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What’s next for the Sackville Commons?

Julia Feltham is co-founder and director at large for the Sackville Commons, a non-profit co-operative that opened its doors on Oct. 3, 2016, out of the former fire hall and police station on Main Street in Sackville.
Julia Feltham is co-founder and director at large for the Sackville Commons, a non-profit co-operative that opened its doors on Oct. 3, 2016, out of the former fire hall and police station on Main Street in Sackville. - File image

Local non-profit co-operative issues call for community support

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following was submitted by Julia M. Feltham, co-founder and director at large for Sackville Commons Co-op Ltd.

SACKVILLE, N.B. – Should we exist if we aren’t fulfilling the potential of our community? This is a question I’ve been asking myself lately. As a co-founder of The Sackville Commons, I have donated countless hours to managing and growing our fledgling non-profit co-operative because I believe our community needs and deserves a space like The Commons. But we are community owned, and for us to step forward, we need to know that our community needs us and believes in what we're doing.

Our AGM is on Sept. 24, 5-7 p.m. and we are in desperate need for passionate directors and more community support. Ending our second full year, our bookings and business model continue to grow, but we need to grow our paying monthly members, have a steady cash flow and a reinvigorated board of directors if we are to continue our work. Without grants and bookings, we are in a deficit position – but that can easily change.

Due to a multitude of circumstances and board terms ending, we will be in great need for directors to nominate at our AGM. I personally believe, at this point, if we are not the space or the organization this community needs/wants, I feel we should not exist. Us founders promised they'd give it a try for two years, and I believe we've made the mistake of not reaching out more or asking for help. Our community owns us and shares the responsibility of supporting us. I still believe we serve a huge need in the community, but it's not a question for me to answer. It's a question for our community.

I'm here to sound the horn: We need your support. Before it comes to shutting our doors to the public and ceasing our intentional collaborative spaces and programs, we need to share with you we're on a precipice. We're incredibly close to being better than ever, having a sustainable business model, regular staff, and further serving our mission but like many startups we're at the point where we need to grow or die. If you like what we do, this is your chance to make sure we continue and grow.

As some of you may know, for almost a year we have been entirely powered by dedicated volunteers. Some of us, myself included, have donated thousands of hours to supporting the mission and operations at The Commons. Since we opened in September 2014, we've had more than 15,000 people through our doors and more than 104 people use our space regularly every week. We've helped incubate or build 30 plus businesses, we have 78 members (over 1/3 of whom are sponsored) but many of our initiatives and capacity-building activities (Volunteer Tantramar, Social Inclusion Round Table, Buy Local Sackville, Startup Sackville, free consultations and incubation services) have all suffered from lack of staff, lack of income and volunteer burnout. There are lots of grants and leads to support us we could possibly tap into, but our core volunteers need support in our operations and strategy to be able to achieve long-term sustainability and keep providing value to our community.

There are lots of ways to help:

– If you're passionate about what we do? Apply to be on our board of directors.

– Spread the word! Encourage people to co-work with us, become paying members or book their events with us. Help us find a sponsors, donors and grants to keep the good stuff coming.

– Volunteer as a host, or join a committee for membership development, facilities, or fundraising.

– Become a patron. Subscribe to support us monthly through Patreon (patreon.com/coworksackville )

Our vision is that our community uses entrepreneurial tools and spirit to enable positive economic, social and environmental changes. Our mission is to host inclusive, collaborative spaces to support innovation, incubation and resource sharing. As a volunteer-powered non-profit cooperative on a boot strap budget in a small town, I believe we've done a good job. I have no doubt we can actually do a great job with more community support, openness and hands on deck.

We're open to suggestions, and we'd love to stay open for business.

Thanks for all you've already done, and we’re excited to see what we can achieve if we support each other over the next year. Whatever happens next, I’m proud of what we’ve done together.

For more information, contact Feltham at 506-939-2232 or by e-mail at impact@coworksackville.com.

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