The Star-Herald

Count Faces: County Co-Op Volunteers of Houlton

HOULTON, Maine — Could your day use a little pick-me-up?

Try visiting the friendly crew of volunteers at The County Co-op & Farm Store. (Grabbing one of their coffees and a raspberry crumble bar isn’t a bad choice, either.)

The County Co-op, nestled in downtown Houlton, greets customers with its squawking screen door, stockpiles of healthy baked goods and groceries, plus a crowd of locally-produced items, that include everything from art to mittens and woodworking to farm goods.

But what powers this local hub? Its volunteers, of course.

“We have a really good core group and without them we couldn’t do this,” said Jane Torres, a County Co-op board member. “They are the co-op.”

Right now, Torres said, they have between 18 and 20 volunteers who tackle the day-to-day work at the co-op. They manage everything — [do] front-end work, track consignments, or help with occasional special events, like special author appearances or card-making parties, for example. Some volunteers also help cook the super-sized treats that fill the glass counter.

These volunteers represent a good cross-section of the community. They range from co-op board members and local senior citizens to high schoolers from the Carleton Project.

“They’re all great ambassadors for the co-op,” added Torres.

Paula Woodworth, a volunteer since 2015, said she loves working with her friends at the co-op, and indicated that working behind the co-op counter is a big change from what she used to do when she worked full-time. (She used to work in dentistry.) That change of pace is just part of the reason why she loves volunteering so much.

“I love helping here,” she said. “We all pitch in, and we all feel responsible. We really want people to come here and have a good experience.”

Woodworth, who also sells her photography at the shop, added that she’s been shopping at the store since it was Brown’s. She remembers buying her school supplies and new outfits there.

Volunteer Joann Inman echoed those thoughts.

“We’re all here to volunteer and give our tiny part because we love the concept and because it helps so many of the [local] producers,” she said.

And here’s an insider scoop: Joann’s husband, Joe Inman, creates all sorts of woodworking projects, sells them at the co-op and donates all the proceeds back to the co-op.

Whether it’s a chalkboard mural or a friendly smile, volunteers at the co-op have plenty to share and their gifts seem to be making a positive difference for downtown Houlton.

“It is all a labor of love,” added Torres. “And their dedication is phenomenal.”

Want to know more about The County Co-op & Farm Store? Check them out on Facebook or visit them at 53 Main Street Monday through Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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