Sunnyside Swap Shop closed on August 31, 2013.

We have re-opened as Southside Swap & Play in the Woodstock neighborhood and are accepting new member families! Please visit our new website for information about membership!

Time to Move On

Swap shop members and community members have had plenty of questions about the church’s priorities and reasoning in making a decision not to renew the swap shop’s use of the building past August 31st

First, I want to address the question I have been asked about if our new director, Ellen Zientek, was not hired to relocate the co-op.  She was very much hired to continue the co-op in its current location and it was new-to-us news about the need to relocate received just about a week before the first notice went out to members in late May.

The church had already verbally accepted our proposed use agreement for May 2013-April 2014, we had signed it, paid our use donation for May.  The use agreement document was in their hands to sign and return when the letter asking us to end our use of the building on August 31st was received.

There are many factors to this decision.  Most of the work I do as a community builder is about bringing people and groups together and helping to find balance.

I am very proud of the church members that took this co-op in in 2007 for having very realistic expectations.  They weren’t expecting the church membership to burst at the seams and grow lock step with the co-op but they were certainly hoping that welcoming young families into the building would have some sort of positive effect on church membership.

They kept, I think, very respectful boundaries this whole time, not over reaching into the co-op but stewarding very nice joint events together with us like the Autumnfest and the carnival, hosting a monthly labyrinth and doing what they could to make their worship service welcoming to families.

Over 700 families have been members of the co-op either with young kids or teens in the Roost. That is certainly something to be very proud of.  It is neither a statement of the quality of the church or of the co-op but just a statement of reality that only a very few families (really only 3 or 4, my family included up until recently) have found some sort of long term connection with the church over these past six years.  There is now just one family who both worships and has supported the co-op over the years. This one family has invested time to take on a position of leadership in the church trustees.  They have a daughter now much older that swap shop age but not yet Roost age.

When the new minister arrived last July, he spent almost a full year observing and listening and asking questions before leading this decision to reach out to community in a new and different way after August 31st.  It’s really quite tempting (for me and even more so, I would imagine, for everyone else a bit farther from the action) to want to make the new minister into the “bad guy” or to wonder why the church as a whole didn’t continue to value us and the benefits we bring.

To my knowledge there is not one set plan of what to replace the swap shop with but just an awareness that something new needs to be tried by the church to help revitalize membership so the healthy stewardship of all programs has a better chance of continuing.

This decision, I have no doubt, was one of the most difficult ones this church has made in the last 6 years.  As an aging congregation, they are facing extinction in some way if they carry on as they are with their key financial donors passing away year by year, a part time minister shared with another congregation, less than 40 members and acting as the stewards of a building built to serve 1,000 people.

$20-30 a month per member and a small co-op job per family are absolutely enough to secure a good place somewhere in community for all of us to gather.  If we want security that a certain place will have us along for the long term we also have to be able to think about and honor what makes that long term possible for that group of people.

The church has very fairly concluded that a building pretty well full up of swap shop members all week long is not the long term solution for regenerating this particular Methodist congregation.  They aren’t only about their congregation with the shelter and meals and us and basketball groups and the day care and day camp and all but they do need to be about their congregation or they don’t have a healthy position from which to offer to serve others too.

If you would enjoy a cup of coffee together or have time for a walk through the park together, there is certainly more of a story to tell, as there always is, but this is, I believe, a very fair summary of the real honest truth behind the place we are all at today.

I encourage us all to focus on the gratitude we have for the time we have spent in this grand old building and its sweet back yard space and to see what is coming next as a new opportunity for everyone.

I can very comfortably pass on the word that the church members and their newest minister, Rev. Chuck Currie, have expressed many times over the gratitude they all have for what the presence of the swap shop and my work and has done to support the church over these past 6 years.

We all support each other in so many ways.  One of the hardest forms of support is the support needed to move on when it would have been nice, in many ways, to be able to stay.  Much thanks to everyone who has responded so graciously to this challenging news and for everyone who will be pitching in to find a great new great place to be.

Karen Hery

Sunnyside Swap Shop Co-op founder

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