The summer of 2013 brought a new challenge and opportunity for Couleecap and our staff. Vernon County staff were stunned by a tragic fire that destroyed a portion of the Organic Valley headquarters building in La Farge, Wisconsin on May 14 and 15. Organic Valley is one of the largest employers in our area and Couleecap and Organic Valley have ties going back decades.
The fire also touched Couleecap employees personally, many of whom had husbands, wives, sons, daughters, and other relatives who were employed with Organic Valley. The Organic Valley fire had displaced 220 employees who now needed space and a place to go. Within a day Couleecap staff were asking what they could do to help out with the situation. Couleecap was one of many area organizations that extended an offer of help to Organic Valley. “Couleecap’s slogan is ‘People Helping People,’ so when we saw the fire at the Organic Valley headquarters we immediately offered our excess space to help out this great local employer,” says Couleecap Executive Director Grace Jones.
Couleecap’s offices located in Westby, Wisconsin consist of an administrative building and a Vernon County field office in the heart of downtown. It is home to 33 administrative and program staff, and our weatherization warehouse. In order to accommodate Organic Valley staff Couleecap staff needed to move as well. A plan was devised and Couleecap staff busied themselves packing in order to consolidate space. Over 8,900 square feet, including meeting rooms and office space was made available to 65 Organic Valley employees. In the end 19 of 33 Westby administrative staff members made a move to accommodate our guests. The internal move did not impact our services to clients or the operation of our programs.
Organic Valley generously helped with moving costs and is renting the space from Couleecap, “which has helped Couleecap budgets and programs,” said Grace Jones. Community Development has also been an unforeseen consequence of what began as a small gesture of support. Organic Valley purchased a vacant building (formerly Harris Bank) in Westby, and in the end 106 Organic Valley employees moved into the downtown. This was a wonderful addition to the community of Westby and the surrounding small businesses.
Couleecap staff believe in the idea of People Helping People. This belief guides our daily work. Whether we are providing help to low-income people in our area, or help to our larger community – we are people helping people. “Clearly you take the community part seriously and we appreciate that,” George Siemon, Organic Valley CEO.