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July 31, 2014
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Connecting through community: The Cooperage

The Cooperage board of directors includes Matthew Meagher, left, Katharine Brown, Kay Reynolds, Jeff George, Project Director Doni Hoffman, Pennell Whitney and Edward Cremo.
Contributed photos

By Nancy Dymond

The Cooperage Project on Main Street in Honesdale, PA may be physically housed in the historic shell of a 19th-century wooden cask and barrel factory, but it is much more than a building. Like an origami star, it is a concept unfolding in many directions at once from the compressed heart of a shared vision.
In the months since its grand opening on June 2, 2012, The Cooperage has become the scene where people of the region come together, most notably for workshops, music concerts and for produce, meats, cheese and baked goods sold by local growers at the farmers’ market, which runs on Wednesdays through October, and thereafter on Saturdays.

Creating community
While in the throes of renovating the structure, building owners Pennell Whitney and Edward Cremo observed that local growers and their customers at the weekly farmers’ market were interacting on a number of levels beyond buying and selling. Whitney and Cremo were bombarded by ideas from people on how to use their space for the good of the local community. With this kind of input, they were inspired by the notion that people’s shared interests and concerns might flower in the sort of venue they were creating. The mission statement created by the Board of Directors of The Cooperage Project amplifies those early dreams: “The mission of The Cooperage Project is to offer a range of instructive and entertaining activities that will engage, challenge, and enlighten. Through a variety of programs, we will inspire people of all ages to both embrace diversity and celebrate shared experience in order to create a deeper sense of community.”

“We thought it would start slowly and have a chance to sort of grow slowly,” said Whitney of the first few months of operation. “But it didn’t happen that way. It went, whooaaa!” The Cooperage plans to offer programs through the winter months. “I do think that winter is a time when people are looking for things to do,” she said. “I want to enjoy being here together and have lots of what we need without having to drive so far to do it.”

The nonprofit’s board helps to shape The Cooperage’s presence in the community. “We are a very active board,” said Whitney. “It’s such fun.” The board meets every two weeks to go over the event schedule, offer ideas and solutions, provide situational protocols and much more. The owners stress the extraordinary commitment of the board. “They go above and beyond,” said Cremo, noting that board members can be found volunteering at every event.