By now you have likely heard the news that Common Ground's General Manager, Jacqueline Hannah, will be leaving to join the Food Cooperative Initiative in May as a consultant. I have conflicted feelings as I consider her departure. As a board member and owner I will sorely miss her passion, vision, leadership, and commitment to our organization. As a friend and colleague, however, I am extremely excited for her to share those same attributes with food co-op start-ups across the country; she is uniquely qualified to foster their success.
When I joined the board in 2011 the co-op was entering the planning stages for our most recent expansion project at the Lincoln Square location. It was a bit overwhelming to step in at a time when we were making decisions about a multi-million dollar project that would double the size of the store. However, Jacqueline's meticulous preparation and reassuring confidence set the tone for a very successful project.
When I became board president in 2012 I had an opportunity to work more closely with Jacqueline, including attending multiple national industry conferences with her. It was during these travels that I came to understand the extent of Common Ground's, and Jacqueline's, positive impact on food co-ops nationwide. Board members from other co-ops would regularly seek me out to learn more about the success of Common Ground, and Jacqueline was a frequent presenter to regional and national audiences. Here in C-U we know there is something special about our Co-op, but we should feel proud that our story is well known throughout the industry as well.
Over the past few years I've learned more about the circumstances surrounding Jacqueline's arrival at Common Ground in 2006. Shortly after she became GM, the Co-op was faced with a financial crisis as well as the news that its lease in the church basement would not be renewed. Since then she has nurtured an organization that has been recognized for many years as the fastest growing food co-op in the country. Along the way Jacqueline has been honored for her efforts: in 2013 she received the Community Service Cooperator award at the Crossroads Cooperative Summit; and, just this month she received the 2014 Illinois Cooperative Council's (ICC) Outstanding Cooperative Manager Award.
Jacqueline will remain at Common Ground until May, so please take a moment to seek her out and say thanks for her tireless efforts to turn the vision of our owners into a reality. I speak for the entire board when I say that we have enjoyed working with her and wish her much success in her next adventure.