Donations to the CHIP program reached an all-time high in 2011: over $180,000.  The Rainbow over the Willy Street CoopCHIP program—a partnership between Community Shares/CHIP and Willy Street Co-op (east and west Co-op locations)—offers Co-op Owners the chance to add a 1% donation to each purchase.  Community Shares/CHIP developed the program in 1971.  The Co-op became a CHIP site in 1978, and ever since then its Owners have shown steadily growing support for the program.

“One of the seven Co-op Principles is Concern for Community, and the CHIP program is one way we fulfill that,” said Brendon Smith, Director of Communications at Willy Street Co-op.

The CHIP dollars support Community Shares of Wisconsin (CSW) and the 64 nonprofits that are part of Community CHIP, according to Executive Director Crystel Anders.  “CHIP dollars provide needed support in these challenging times. Our nonprofits are all focused on advocating for system change, change that can make our communities better for everyone.”  She added that CHIP funds are extraordinarily helpful because they provide general support to CSW and 64 nonprofits. General funds allow organizations to be flexible, innovative, and responsive to critical issues as they arise in our community.  For example, CSW launched the Center for Change in 2011 in order to build greater capacity within member nonprofits, and to support emerging nonprofits in our community.  “The Center will help us meet our greatest challenge of both sustaining and building an even stronger movement for social change and environmental justice in Wisconsin,” said Anders.

Angela West Blank from the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters pointed out that “CHIP dollars helped us organize a Kids’ Lobby Day and press conference to support the Wisconsin Children’s Bill of Rights.  Over 50 kids from across the state attended this important event at the Capitol early in January, delivering their artwork—illustrating why they like the outdoors—to their legislators.  Another major effort of ours is organizing our members to make their voices heard about the mining bill moving quickly through the legislature, and of course CHIP funds help with that too.”

The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation’s Stacy Harbaugh noted that CHIP funds were useful in training volunteer legal observers who were witnesses to those exercising their First Amendment rights at the Capitol and elsewhere in the state during large and small protests in 2011. “The ACLU of Wisconsin also supported the rights of students to start a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) at West Bend High School. And we’re involved every year in opposing censorship and book challenges, most recently at Belleville High School.”

There is a new Madison law affecting many tenant rights: for example, landlords can now ask tenants to pay any amount as a security deposit (before, they could ask only for 1 month’s rent or less). The Tenant Resource Center continues to provide information to help tenants, and Brenda Konkel of TRC noted that “every CHIP dollar helps.”

Rape Crisis Center took a 30% cut in their funding from the state for 2012.  Executive Director Kelly Anderson noted that “in the face of this major challenge, RCC remains committed to 24-hour crisis services and prevention.” Though CHIP donations can’t begin to replace such significant cuts, Anderson said that “because CHIP funds are flexible, we can use them where they’re needed most.”

Smith explained that Co-op staff usually “hear positive things about the CHIP program from our Owners who donate. When I’ve told customers about how much the Co-op provides to CHIP each year, they’re amazed that a few coins per shopping trip ends up being such a huge donation. But it’s no surprise to us that we have generous people shopping at the Co-op!”

Certainly the record-breaking 2011 donations are welcome source of funding for CSW and the 64 nonprofits in the CHIP program.   “We want to thank all of you Co-op shoppers who say yes to CHIP,” said Anders.  “Your dedication to nonprofits truly exemplifies what it means to be community-minded.”


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