By Elizabeth McGuire
In the eight years that Wheatsville Food Co-op has supported Austin Parks Foundation, they have donated well over $50,000—enough money to buy a small army of organic zucchini.
Since 2009, the local grocery store has been a major sponsor of APF’s It’s My Park Day. Wheatsville calls the relationship a natural pairing because both organizations are in the business of serving the Austin community.
“The parks are at the center of peoples’ neighborhood,” says Raquel Dadomo, Wheatsville brand manager. “Wheatsville—being a neighborhood, community co-op—is interested in making sure we preserve those spaces and strengthen neighborhoods and communities.”
The APF/Wheatsville relationship began in 2009, when IMPD was a much smaller version of today’s project, which now represents a $250,000 investment into citywide parks. From the beginning, Wheatsville wanted to help specifically with IMPD because, according to Dadomo, “It’s My Park Day is one of those things that knits together communities and neighborhoods. Even though it’s just one day, the energy and devotion flows out. People will come and enjoy these parks year round and take more ownership of their green spaces.”
In a typical year, APF recruits 3,000 volunteers to provide 10,000 hours of labor for IMPD. Wheatsville, as part of their sponsorship, donates gift cards to the IMPD team leaders so they can buy snacks for the volunteers who are mulching, planting or cleaning in these parks.
Wheatsville’s customers and owners have noticed the generosity. “We hear a lot of people say, ‘I’m so happy WE are doing this,’” said Dadomo. “Our co-op owners take pride in our work. They are owners, after all. They appreciate that the grocery store that they own is doing something to help their community.”
Along with financial contributions, the Wheatsville staff also donate their time. For the past few years, employees have spent IMPD cleaning up Shipe Park, which is located near the flagship store on Guadalupe.
Long ago, the co-op made a decision to support local non-profits and to try to build the infrastructure in their home town. The result: Wheatsville gives $100,000 a year to local nonprofits and community groups, through donations, sponsorships and fundraising.
Their reasons are simple, explains Dadomo: “The city does as much as they can, and people in other nonprofits are doing as much as they can. We hope our efforts make some kind of small contribution to the overall cause.”
As far as the Wheatsville/APF relationship goes, Dadomo describes it like “old friends.”
“APF is so nice and appreciative—they make us feel like rockstars. Like us, they do an amazing amount of work with so little. We are both organizations that are so hardworking and that make the most of the resources we have. We are both trying to make as big of an impact on Austin as we can.”
People Plus Parks is a series featuring the people behind the work we’re doing in Austin’s parks. Check out the “People + Parks” category for more.