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Groundbreaking worth the Weight

From left, Sam Coleman, president, West End Neighborhood Association; Sarah A. Halliday, vice president M&T Bank Commerical Banking, Albany Middle Market; Carolyn McLaughlin, president, Albany Common Council; Lexa Juhre, HWFC project manager and leadership team; Lynne Lekakis, president, HWFC board of directors; Mayor Jerry Jennings; Sen. Neil Breslin; Chris Quinn, Albany County deputy executive; and Keven Catalano, loan portfolio manager, Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce, at the Honest Weight Food Co-op groundbreaking.

From left, Sam Coleman, president, West End Neighborhood Association; Sarah A. Halliday, vice president M&T Bank Commerical Banking, Albany Middle Market; Carolyn McLaughlin, president, Albany Common Council; Lexa Juhre, HWFC project manager and leadership team; Lynne Lekakis, president, HWFC board of directors; Mayor Jerry Jennings; Sen. Neil Breslin; Chris Quinn, Albany County deputy executive; and Keven Catalano, loan portfolio manager, Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce, at the Honest Weight Food Co-op groundbreaking.

Co-op President Lynn Lekakis said about 300 people participated in the loan program, providing $1.2 million in funds. Each loan had to be for at least $1,000. The lenders could then tell the Co-op board how much they wanted to lend, the rate of interest they wanted attached to the loan and when they expected to be paid back. Another 200 people opted to participate in a smaller lending program that provided an additional $300,000 in funds.

“It’s worked out well so far,” said Lekakis.

The Co-op has also recently applied for a separate nonprofit status. This new organization will be responsible for overseeing the many healthy living programs the Co-op provides, mostly to area schools. It will be an extension of the store that takes over nearly all community outreach efforts.

“We did it because over the course of this project, people have said they would straight-up donate to our efforts if we had something set up,” said Lekakis, adding how the new facility has taken up much of the board’s time and new people are needed to oversee this particular extension of the group.

The opening date for the new store is set for May 2013, according to Bartels.

She said shoppers and Co-op members — who the board now refers to as “owners” — should not expect to see higher prices because of the new location. Bartels said they are also fully prepared for the increase in grocery stores to the region, including specialty stores like Trader Joes and Whole Foods. She emphasized the Co-op’s relationship with local suppliers.

“(This) means that a significant percentage of our customers’ shopping dollars support our local economy, rather than being channeled out of state,” she said.

For more information on the project or the Co-op, visit www.hwfc.com.

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