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How do you follow up after inviting locals to Pay It Forward?Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union has continued to ride on the growing goodwill by launching Operation: Cooperation, a project that invites groups of all sizes to share resources to make good things happen.Groups were asked to submit a creative project that explains the work they do to the credit union’s microsite www.opcoop.coop. Submissions could be songs, videos, poems or just about any form of creative expression. Projects would then be entered to win not only Cooperative Spirit honors but also cash awards ranging from $500 to $5,000 for their respective causes.“We’re following the same formula we always have-taking one of our seven principles, magnifying it and finding a way to experience and live it. Last year, we gave locals $10 to do a good deed based on principle No. 7: Giving back to the community is an obligation,” said SMCU Vice President/Chief Marketing Officer Jill Vicente. “This year we wanted to build on principle No. 6: Cooperation is vital.”Wanting it to be participatory, Vincente said, helped spark the idea of sharing and drawing attention to what’s already being done in the community.Recognizing that some of the co-ops may need help with their entries the $529 million credit union teamed up with Reel Grrls, an after-school media/technology program for young women, to host a Resource Day. Reel Grrls teen videographers were on hand to help guide and document the creative project submissions. In addition, credit union enthusiast and community philanthropist Carol Schillos, who made local and national headlines for living on a rooftop in Edmonds to raise money for the Fabric of Life Foundation, took a break to help kick off the event.“We saw the full spectrum of cooperative community efforts from a furniture bank where people donate and share furniture or a quilting project to even groups that provide hand massages. It was eye opening for us, and it felt great to accomplish a little of what we intended and see some of these low funded nonprofits that still find a way to work together and do great things,” said Vincente. “The Resource Day was another way to provide them a little time in the spotlight, build awareness and even help teach them how to market themselves a little better.”To spread the word about the campaign, Vincente said she’s found that social media outlets such as Twitter (www.twitter.com/opcoop), microsites and videos have been the easiest, most effective way to deliver messages to SMCU members.“Especially in this challenge because some of these organizations don’t even have their own Websites, so we wanted to be sure to give the groups the ability to showcase themselves,” said Vincente. “So we built the microsite and included a gallery of all the submissions so that even after the competition was over they could send people to a particular page on the site to learn more about what they do. Hopefully people will visit throughout the year.”Out of the 100 people who submitted entries, the public voted and selected the following co-ops to receive top honors: BC Carnation Co-Op Preschool, gold award $5,000; Somali Women’s Wellness Project, shoestring award $500; Orca K-8 School Garden, social media award $500; and Richard Hugo House, creative award $1,000.At grand prize winning BC Carnation, as a co-op preschool, parents take turns in the classroom helping the teachers with lessons and making sure the kids have fun. Parents also take on the preschool’s administrative tasks to help keep overhead and tuition costs low. The co-op plans to use its winnings toward its operating budget and creating tuition scholarships for families in need.“It’s been an educational experience and the community response has been so positive and absolutely incredible,” said Vincente. “Comments from the co-ops have ranged from ‘thanks for helping us get our name out there’ to ‘this project has helped bring our group closer.’ We can’t wait to do it again, and our hope is that each year will bring a bit more awareness of these great local cooperatives that are working hard to improve our communities.”–[email protected]

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