New President talks for the first time about her role in helping to shape the future of Central England Co-op
The new President of Central England Co-op has spoken about the importance of co-operatives and the plans being put in place for her time in the role.
Jane Avery, from Markfield, in Leicester, was unanimously elected as Society President in November and will now chair the Board of Directors as they ensure the Society carries out its commitment to be a successful co-operative business and to serve the best interests of the members in line with its long-term strategy.
In her first interview, the former John Port School pupil opened up about her historic links with the co-op, her plans for her time as President and why now, more than ever, co-ops are a vital part of local communities.
She said: “My Grannie was a member of the National Guild of Co-operators in Manchester so the links began from there and continued when my parents moved to Etwall, Derbyshire, when I was four as it had a Derby Co-op store in the village and the Co-op bread van delivered fresh bread twice a week.”
Jane later left school with A-levels and began a Management Trainee scheme with the then Derby Co-op, which is now part of Central England Co-operative.
“The scheme gave me the opportunity of working in lots of departments - Funeral, Bakery, Floristry, Non-food, Food, House Removals (yes, really!) and Travel,” she said:
“There was also a mystery department called Member Relations and I didn't have a clue about membership, the history of the Co-op, the ideals behind the Co-op and the vision of the Rochdale Pioneers. I was hooked and asked if I could do some training in that department. I got a full-time job as a Consumer Adviser in Burton on Trent. I loved that as I talked to people all day long and then I progressed and became the Member Relations Officer.”
Alongside her current role, Jane has devoted much of her professional life to supporting people looking to set up worker co-ops and social enterprise businesses, as well as supporting several other vital good causes such being a Trustee of Leicester Rape Crisis and also the local co-ordinator for the Dyspraxia Foundation.
She said: “I got involved with Leicester Rape Crisis because they were looking for trustees and it was part of my employment development to broaden skills and outlook. Professional counselling can and does heal and gives women and girls courage and strength to live their lives without flashbacks and panic attacks, feelings of guilt or shame, or a dependency on sleeping tablets or other medication. It's also a campaigning organisation and we have an education programme to teach young people about safe and respectful relationships.
“As the local co-ordinator for the Dyspraxia Foundation, I provide a helpline service these days. In the past I ran a Gym Club for children with Dyspraxia and a support group for parents.”
Looking ahead to her time as President, Jane revealed that she hopes to promote the fact that co-ops are ‘the best kept secret in the country’.
She added: “I think co-ops have a great story to tell and are probably the best kept secret in the country. As a business model it has proved to be robust and enduring. Its values and principles are an antidote to poor practice elsewhere and as a model for creating a society that is fair and sustainable it’s difficult to find something not to like about it.
“As President I stand on the shoulders of people who have worked hard for the Society in the past, to get it to where it is, so I hope I can raise our profile and hand on to the next President an even healthier, stronger Central England Co-operative.”
Asked to highlight some of the great work Central England Co-op does in the community, Jane was quick to pick the Community Dividend Fund, which sees good causes receive grants of up to £5,000, and the dividend payment handed to members as a reward for their loyalty twice a year.
Away from her role, Jane likes to unwind by gardening, reading and walking.
Summing up what is best about Central England Co-op, she said: “We are a thriving Society, owned by members who live and work locally, ethical and an important part of our community.”
Notes to editors
Picture caption: Central England Co-op President Jane Avery.
About Central England Co-operative
Central England Co-operative is one of the largest independent retail co-operative societies in the UK with interests in food, funeral, floral and property investment.
Co-operatives have always been there for their communities; they were formed to protect them and help them flourish.
Our 7,550 colleagues who serve Members and customers work hard to ensure that co-operative values, principles and spirit flow through everything we do to help support and improve our local communities.
Owned by hundreds of thousands of Members, we have over 400 trading outlets across 16 counties including West Midlands, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
We are proud of our reputation for ethical business practices and corporate responsibility.
We invest a percentage of our trading profit into local communities through our Community Dividend Fund scheme, have donated over £1.3 million to our corporate charity partner Dementia UK and also operate a pioneering food redistribution partnership with FareShare Midlands so unsold food goes to those in need.
Visit www.centralengland.coop for more information or follow us on Facebook or Twitter using @mycoopfood
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