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Cooperative Tweets

Our Team

THOMAS ASSEFA
Coop Academy Coordinator
thomas@greenworker.coop  

Thomas joined Green Worker Cooperatives after 10 years in the US social justice movement working as a community organizer and later, as a trainer of organizers. Most recently, Thomas was a full time trainer with Black Organizing for Leadership & Dignity (BOLD), a project to revitalize social justice infrastructure in the Black community and re-center Black leadership in the social justice movement, integrating personal and social change through generative somatics. Thomas has worked at the intersections of environmental, economic, racial justice and personal transformation. He is now thrilled to be part of growing the worker cooperative movement in NYC and beyond. He is currently a board member of Black Alliance for A Just Immigration (BAJI) and sits on the Advisory Council for BOLD. Thomas is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Organizational Change Management at the New School for Public Engagement. He is from Ethiopia, residing in the Bronx, and happily married to his wife of 9 years. When he’s not working, Thomas enjoys being in nature and spending quality time with friends and family. 


OMAR FREILLA

Coordinator  
omar@greenworker.coop

Omar founded Green Worker Cooperatives out his love for personal and community transformation and a passion for democracy, the planet, and making another world possible. Omar brings to his green & worker-owned business development work years of experience organizing for social justice and challenging environmental racism. He is a board member of the Democracy At Work Institute, and advisor for the Story of Stuff Project. He co-curated the New York City portion of the BMW Guggenheim Lab, a project of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. His writings have appeared in numerous books, blogs, and articles and he has been featured in several documentaries, including Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental documentary “The 11th Hour”. Omar has received numerous awards for his work, including the Rockefeller Foundation’s Jane Jacobs Medal for New Ideas and Activism and has been featured in Ebony Magazine’s annual Power 100 list. He holds a Masters degree in Environmental Science from Miami University of Ohio and a B.S. from Morehouse College where he founded the organization Black Men for the Eradication of Sexism. Omar also enjoys making things grow as a loving father, husband and gardener.

 

RAFIAH VITALIS

Volunteer/Administrative Coordinator

rafiah@greenworker.coop

 

Rafiah is a “Bronxite”, with deep Caribbean roots and Yoruba ties. She has a long history of work in the non-profit sector and is profoundly committed to the areas of community development, sustainable solutions and social initiatives. This dedication has led her to a number of community leadership roles, volunteer opportunities and research endeavors. With the belief that we stand on the shoulders of giants, she too wants to make an impact that results in implementing long lasting change. Rafiah is thrilled about lending her expertise and assistance to the Green Worker team and references the quote by Ghandi which states “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”


 

JANVIEVE WILLIAMS COMRIE

Communications Coordinator

janvieve@greenworker.coop

 

Janvieve has been a human rights organizer most of her life.  She is originally from Panama and migrated to the US about 10 years ago, she has also lived and studied in Toronto Canada.  Janvieve is committed to racial and gender justice, and to this end has worked at organizations such as the US Human Rights Network, the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, and founded the Latin American and Caribbean Community Center.  Janvieve is a believer that good campaigns, actions and programs need good messaging and storytelling, which is why for the past 5 years she has been specializing on communications and media.  She is a radio producer and broadcaster and organizes film festivals, all with the end of getting stories and messages out. 

Janvieve is the proud mother of a toddler and enjoys motherhood to the most.  She is also a doula and co-owner of the mother owned cooperative Ginger Moon.

 

Board of Directors

KEVIN RYAN
Chairperson 
Program Officer, New York Foundation

Kevin has been a program officer for the New York Foundation since 2002 where he manages a portfolio of active grants for start up organizations that focus on community organizing and advocacy. He also oversees the Foundation’s Capacity Building Program that includes workshops, small grants, and individual technical assistance requests. Kevin is also an adjunct instructor at Hunter College Graduate School of Urban Affairs and Planning and the Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies. Kevin has served on the board of directors of Green Worker Cooperatives since 2006. Kevin also serves on the board of directors of the North Star Fund, Neighborhood Funders Group, and La Lutta New Media Collective. Prior to his work at the New York Foundation, Kevin was the Executive Director of Community Training and Resource Center, a housing preservation organization. He provided leadership to a staff of tenant organizers working to improve housing conditions for low-income New York City renters. Kevin holds a bachelors degree in sociology and urban studies from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and received a Masters of Urban Planning degree from the New York University Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

 

MANUELA PEREZ
Co-Founder & Worker-Owner, B-Blossom Catering Cooperative
Coop Academy Graduate

Manuela has been a Bronx resident for over twenty five years. She is a highly motivated entrepernuer and self-starter with years of experience as a chef and caterer, specializing in healthy foods. She is a co-founder of B-Blossom, a worker-owned catering cooperative providing healthy prepared foods for special events. Through B-Blossom she seeks to reaize her goal of improving the health and economic development of the Bronx, especially among women.

 

JON SANTIAGO
Co-Founder & Worker-Owner, HTINK Cooperative
Coop Academy Graduate

Jon Santiago works with schools and community based organizations to create technology education programs that are hands-on, engaging, and promote knowledge in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Prior to co-founding the HTINK Cooperative he co-created the NSF supported GreenFab program in the South Bronx, which introduced high school students to digital design and fabrication in the context of environmental sustainability. Jon has helped start “Young Maker” programs in New York City and Newark, NJ, that get middle school and high school students interested in electronics, computer programming, design, and fabrication. Jon has also worked with MakerBot Industries to develop 3-D printing curriculum and professional development workshops for teachers.  He is part of the adjunct faculty of the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, where he teaches undergraduates in the Integrated Digital Media department. Jon graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology(MIT) where he worked with the FabLab program, a global initiative to bring digital fabrication laboratories to communities around the world.

 NOEMI GIZSPENC
Secretary
Executive Director, Cooperative Development Institute

Noemi Giszpenc is Executive Director of the Cooperative Development Institute, a nonprofit providing business assistance, training and networking to cooperatives throughout New England and New York (www.cdi.coop). At CDI, she helped organize and implement the CT Cooperative Business Academy in 2011. S he has been serving on the board of GWC since 2009. She has a Master’s Degree in Community Economic Development from Southern New Hampshire University and a Bachelor’s from M.I.T.

 

 

 

Our Extended Team

Lucy Block grew up in Stuyvesant Town, in lower Manhattan. She migrated to Southern California to attend Pomona College where she studied the politics of environmental problems and the intersections of race, culture and the environment. She also studied Spanish, in part through a semester in the Sociology department of the University of Buenos Aires. After receiving her B.A. in Environmental Analysis she coordinated community engagement programming at Pitzer College. She worked to incubate the Huerta del Valle community garden/urban farm by facilitating a land use agreement and grant with the city of Ontario, CA and moved the new organization toward nonprofit status. Lucy is looking forward to continuing to learn about developing community-level enterprises that seek environmental and economic justice through her work on the Coop Academy team.
“I feel tremendously grateful for the opportunity to work with GWC. It’s clear that a huge amount of time, energy, thought and “sweat equity” has been put into making this program the best it can be to support people in starting up sustainable cooperative businesses. I am lucky enough to benefit from getting to see the curriculum in action. Maricruz’s fundraising training at the first Coop Academy orientation was particularly inspiring and got me revved up for what’s to come. It felt like a real breakthrough for me in learning that I can ask for support–financial or otherwise–and I’m not even an Academy participant. I am thrilled to get to know the participating teams and to help them along their path to make their cooperative ideas a reality.”


Michaela Holmes
In rural Oregon, Michaela Holmes was raised on a farm. Since then, she has lived in a number of different places – Seattle, Austin, TX, San Diego, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia. Michaela achieved her B.S. in Political Science from the University of Oregon in 2005 and her M.S. in Organizational Change Management from the New School for Public Engagement in 2013– where she focused on egalitarian and cooperative organizational structures. Michaela has dedicated herself to horizontal decision-making and the development of communications strategies and skills for cooperative models, which she believes are a tool for social and economic change. She has also done extensive research, through her summer 2013 internship with Praxis Consulting Group, in Philadelphia, on the organization of, participation in, and succession planning for Employee Share Ownership Programs (ESOPs) – in which she found that the best ESOPs function more like traditional cooperatives than traditional share-holder corporations. Through her participation in the Co-op Academy at Green Worker Cooperatives, Michaela is eager to continue her advocacy of cooperatives as a model for worker empowerment and to learn more about the difficulties and successes of cooperative start-ups.
“I have spent incalculable hours thinking about how I can support social and economic justice: The concept is so large it appears abstract, but the place to start is worker cooperatives. I believe in the praxis of people coming together to make decisions as a group- an opportunity that allows learning and reflection on why we work and live the way we do, and a chance to make holistic, healthful choices for ourselves, our communities and the environment. At GWC I am learning and working cooperatively, as well as supporting others to do the same. I am collaborating with Jackie and Lucy to build an updated curriculum for the Co-op Academy, as well as generally support the program and participants. This work is immensely meaningful, rewarding and enjoyable for me. I am thrilled to see what the Spring 2014 Co-op Academy Class will do!”

 

CHICK FOXGROVER

Webmaster

Chick Foxgrover is the CTO of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (the 4A’s). An experienced technology and interaction design professional, Chick has worked independently and for large companies alike. He currently working on building a knowledge sharing community for technologists working in creative industries through the 4A’s and believes strongly in the creative potential of cooperative activity.

 

MICHAEL L KELLY
Graphic Designer

Michael Kelly is a graphic designer, sometime writer and adjunct associate professor of Communications Design at Pratt Institute. A graduate of Pratt himself, he has done work on his own and with others for clients large and small, including Weleda North America, Lara Knutson, M&M Environmental, Ariel Investments, New Visions for Public Schools and Art Off the Main. As part of his course load at Pratt, Michael co-directs Design Corps, a class in which students produce pro-bono design work for non-profits. He lives, works and often runs in Brooklyn.