Community Food Co-Op

Board Candidate: Kristen "Hopper" Hopper

What skills and qualities do you have that uniquely qualify you for the Board of Directors, and why do you want to run for the Board?

I come to the Co-op with an eclectic history of professions, experiences, and honed skills that allow me to bring unique insights to collaborative endeavors. My strong problem-solving skills have allowed me to flourish while working in the nuclear industry, engineering field, overseas volunteering with the refugee crisis, all the way to my current position in the nonprofit sector. Throughout my life, I have found special interest in combating issues like resource insecurity, human rights violations, DEI concerns, and expanding the public’s access to education. I am interested in joining the Co-op Board because I see an opportunity to use and expand upon my skills with community members who share similar passions. By joining the Board, I hope to further enrich the Board’s representation of community members, learn from my peers, and expand upon my leadership experience.

Choose one of the seven goals of the Co-op strategic plan and briefly talk about what interests you and what you could contribute to its development.

While there are a few goals in the list that I feel I could contribute to, the goal that I believe would complement my skills and encourage my growth is Stewardship and Advocacy. I find that authentic, energetic conversation around positive change is something that I enjoy greatly. I love an opportunity to discuss ways that we can address problems that affect both the member body and the wider community. I think that in supporting this goal, we bridge the gap and address the specific factors that prevent more members of the community from being able to access all of the things that a Community Co-op can offer.

Think about a situation that demonstrates your ability to create a climate that values cultural diversity. How would you encourage sharing different perspectives?

The cultural climate here is much different than where I come from in the southeast. For one, there is far more racial and ethnic diversity where I am from. Coming to a city that has much less of that has been a big reminder of how important exposure to cultural diversity has been in informing who I am as a person. While studying leadership, I learned how to highlight my peer's strengths and give opportunities for other team members to chime in. As a person who loves to be a team player, I have had to learn that being a team player means leaving room for others to play, too. I never want to take away from someone's ability to advocate for their viewpoint, so I am always working to practice those cooperative leadership techniques and ask questions if I don't understand where someone is coming from.

What do you believe are the Co-op’s greatest strengths?

I think that the Co-op does a great job of supporting local organizations through donations, partnerships, and sponsorships. It’s refreshing to be able to learn more about the local vendors that make and grow the products that we use right from the website, and it puts the overall impact community engagement aspect of being a member into perspective.

Describe any experience you have in reading and understanding financial statements.

I used to sit on a committee that evaluated the budget for club activity at a college. We often had to evaluate and approve, disapprove, approve with stipulations, or approve only partial funding for events and trips that the clubs on campus wanted to engage in. This entailed discussion and problem solving with my committee peers, taking into account fundraising events planned for the clubs, how many clubs were requesting funds, and an overall consideration of the budget. While this is not an exact match, my experience in this previous role makes me feel like my skills could transfer to work as a foundation for learning.

Describe the experience, skills, or knowledge you have working with any or all of the following:

Cooperatives; policy governance; consensus process, non-profit or for-profit boards; a group that used active member participation to achieve its goals. 

I am very familiar and comfortable with consensus process and policy governance. Between being involved in Student Government Association, organizing and leading parliamentary procedure workshops, and sitting on a few committees, I feel comfortable with my skill level here. I think that my experiences will help me to keep up and learn quickly from being involved in a cooperative.

Describe your connections with the community, including volunteer work if applicable.

My relationship with community connection started in my home state of Tennessee. In my early 20’s, I was involved in an accident that took away my mobility, career, and my access to valuable resources. My perspective on many issues surrounding accessibility changed and sprouted a fierce dedication to advocacy work. After going back to school, I joined the Student Government Association and stood as the Outreach Officer. This placed me in the unique position of helping fellow students navigate resource insecurity. Throughout my time as a student leader, I helped organize and host luncheons that brought attention to and raised money for student homelessness, rural food insecurity, and domestic violence awareness. In addition to this, volunteered for two years as the head coordinator for a drive that worked to provide presents, food, and gift cards to students in need around the holidays. Every volunteer experience allowed me to meet other passionate community leaders who would encourage and inspire me to push beyond my barriers. With the support of my peers, I was even able to write and propose a state bill that would include mental health education within the health education curriculum in Tennessee schools. Community connection is something that I value deeply and has become the foundation of my professional work in the nonprofit sector.

Describe any business or entrepreneurial experience you have.

My experience with business or entrepreneurial endeavors comes from selling my artwork online and having once sold home baked cakes in the past. Neither of these have ever been a large scale operation, just little ways to capitalize on my passions when I feel like it. However, I am always open to learning about how other systems work and expanding my skill set! I am a quick and competent learner, and numbers have always been a strength for me.


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