Honest Weight’s “Co-op Family Group” – Then and Now

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The Co-op Family Group had its origins in 2006 at the old store. Former HWFC member Sarah Kerlow started the group around the time she moved to Albany and had her second child. She called the group the Natural Family Support group, and each week she had a topic for discussion and invited parents of small children to come and discuss the topic and/or any concerns or interests related to parenting naturally. The group grew and grew, and soon a small parenting community was formed. Because of Sarah’s travels back to her home state for stretches of time, the group would go on hold until she returned. Many of us missed the group gathering while she was away, so we proposed having ‘co-leaders’ to lead the group, so that if any of us had to miss due to illness or travel, the group would carry on.

And that is exactly what we did. The three co-leaders – myself included, with my then-4-month-old child (who is now 11.5 and still attends the group!) – would rotate who would lead the topic and discussion. Most families attending had lap babies who would nurse, nap or snack while the parents had discussions on a range of topics, from cloth diapering to schooling choices. The leader would often have done thorough research on the topic and do a brief presentation with notes in hand, and a lively discussion would follow. We all loved coming from week-to-week and would then do our grocery shopping together and often plan meet-ups outside of the Co-op. Many dear friendships were forged from our little group in that teeny community room of the old store.

The group has continued on in many iterations since those early gatherings with lap babies. Our babies grew, and for some there were more babies. We soon outgrew the space in the old store. For a time we met (not for member hours or affiliated with the Co-op) at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Washington Avenue where the Co-op’s member meetings are held. We hoped that, with the promise of a new store, there would be a larger gathering space. Indeed, once the new store was built, we began meeting as a Co-op group again. Over the years, some co-leaders stepped up and took on more leadership as others needed to take a break or step down; some new co-leaders have come on board, and yet through it all we have remained a relatively constant presence at HWFC for over a decade.

More recently we have expanded our reach to homeschooling families, and that has brought with it the option of doing an organized craft—something that was not so easy to do with the 6-12 month olds of previous groups! The group is open to any caregivers interested in attending and discussing natural family parenting: moms, dads, grandparents, etc. It is a drop-in group. We start at 10am and wrap up by 12:00pm every Wednesday. Check the online calendar or the group’s Facebook page, “Co-op Family Group,” for the topic and/or craft for the week. Examples of topics include: eating healthy over the holidays, baby-wearing, co-sleeping, reducing sugar in the diet, eating locally, gardening, potty learning, homemade cleaning products, homebirth, yoga and meditation – and so much more. We also have had speakers from time to time. (Please contact us if you have a topic in your area of specialty that you would like to present to our group.)

Over the years, the Co-op Family Group has reached so very many families, many of whom have forged a connection with each other. Many have chosen to become members of the Co-op, if they were not already. After each meeting, basically all of us head out of the group to do most or all of our week’s shopping in the Co-op. If you share natural family interests like us, you too are invited on a Wednesday to bring (or buy) a coffee, tea or yummy snack and come visit us in the community room. And then head out to do your shopping alongside the rest of us, if you wish.

It works out perfectly!

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I am former teacher and social worker originally from Syracuse, NY. I am currently homeschooling our five kids on a small homestead outside of Albany. I have been a member of HWFC for almost 10 years and feel very committed to supporting member-owned cooperatives. For this reason I choose to do almost all of the shopping for a family of 7 at the Co-op, even if I could occasionally save a buck elsewhere. So very grateful for HWFC and its continual and evolving work to give every member a voice!