Michael Pennington, General Manager: Prior to coming to Bloomington-Normal, Michael was a long time resident of Champaign-Urbana, having moved there from Macomb, Illinois in 2005 to attend the University of Illinois, where he majored in Political Science. Growing up in Macomb, Michael developed an interest in politics and economics, which led him to discover the cooperative business model. Enamored with the concept, one of the first things he did when he moved to Champaign-Urbana was to join the local food cooperative, Common Ground Food Co-op and, in 2006, to become a resident and organizer of the La Casa Grande Colectiva housing cooperative and a member/volunteer at The Bike Project, the local bicycle cooperative.
In 2007, Michael began working at Urbana’s Market at the Square, where he helped run a farmers’ market stand for Mileur Orchards, selling peaches and nectarines from southern Illinois. His experience at the farmers’ market helped him understand the importance of a strong local food system in maintaining the health and vibrancy of a community and let him see firsthand the dramatic positive impact that a food co-op has on the livelihood of local farmers and producers, who came to rely on Common Ground Food Co-op’s regular, predictable orders.
In 2011, Michael began working at Common Ground, first as a produce stocker and later as Common Ground’s first Technology Coordinator, where he used his technical skillset and eye for efficiency to help develop systems for the rapidly expanding co-op. Michael eventually joined Common Ground’s leadership team as IT Manager, where he had a direct impact in forming organizational policy and direction. As IT Manager, Michael focused on developing efficient, accurate systems for product pricing, inventory management, merchandising and cash handling. He recently served as the Interim General Manager of Common Ground, leading the organization through a period of significant transition and growth.
Michael is excited to bring the skills, experience and systems developed in his time at Common Ground to Green Top Grocery. He sees in Green Top Grocery many of the same characteristics that made Common Ground such a success and is confident in its potential to be an incredibly vibrant and robust community institution. As General Manager, he is dedicated to ensuring that Green Top Grocery is both operationally successful and consistently achieves its organizational ends. He looks forward to becoming an active member of the Bloomington-Normal community and to getting to better know the co-op owners he will be serving.
Katie Novak, Outreach Manager: Katie’s interest in local food stems from years living in Colorado when her sister and her husband recruited her to assist them in opening a non-profit restaurant called SAME (So All May Eat) Café where customers are provided a healthy, organic meal regardless of their ability to pay. Katie continues to hold an “advisory” Board position with SAME Café as well as Board positions with Homes of Hope, Inc. and the YMCA. She serves on the McLean County Wellness Coalition and is involved in the Bring it on Bloomington Healthy Living Working Group.
Jodi Stalsworth, Administrative Assistant: Jodi grew up on a small farm in the Northwestern part of Illinois, and was an active participant and supporter of growing local foods for our tables. She graduated from Illinois State University with an enthusiasm to service her community. Her career path was focused in mortgage banking and finance until she started working for not-for-profit organizations. In the childhood education field, she worked hard to advance their mission as well as utilize her finance skills in the office environment. Her journey later took her to work in farmer education and support, while taking an active role in preserving the land that brings us quality, local foods. Little did she know that her farm to table background would develop into her true passion of working in organizations driven to support and better her community. She takes great pride in the values that she learned from her family’s farm about local foods and wants to share that enthusiasm in as many was as she can.
Kim Alcorn, President: Kim has been a resident of Bloomington-Normal for over a decade, with a brief hiatus in Chicago after she obtained her Bachelors of Fine Art from Illinois State University. Shortly after moving away, Kim returned to Bloomington-Normal when she realized that it was more than just her college town- it was her home. Kim became passionate about local food and clean eating when she was in school; she worked part-time in restaurants and grocery stores during this time and learned a lot about the food industry from these experiences. Kim is a frequenter of the Bloomington Farmers’ Market, and it was there that she learned about Green Top Grocery and became an owner. Ever since, Kim has been active in the initiative to make Green Top a reality and joined the Outreach Committee and Board of Directors as an interim director. Kim attended the 2015 Up and Coming, Up and Running Co-op Conference and the IWU Action Research Center’s Board Boot Camp in the spring of 2015 to learn how to better serve the Board. Currently, Kim is a Bank Business Analyst at State Farm, and brings to the table her experience in project and knowledge management, procedure creation and maintenance, and her knowledge of the banking industry. In addition to her passion to support local farmers, Kim is a strong advocate for supporting local across all markets and industries. Kim spends additional time outside of her job and volunteer activities helping with her husband’s store, Waiting Room Records, in Normal.
Jerica Etheridge, Treasurer: Jerica was raised in her parents’ lumberyard in a small farming community in northwest Illinois. Because of this early experience she has always been an advocate for local businesses and farmers and her move to Bloomington from Chicago in 2005 brought her closer to her rural roots. Always an avid supporter of Farmers’ Markets, in 2010 she went one step further and started volunteering on local sustainable farms. In 2011, she realized she wanted to be part of a bigger solution to ensuring local sustainable food is available to the community and began volunteering for the Edible Economy Project. This led to her involvement in Green Top Grocery which she feels is a vital link in the chain between the supply capabilities of local farmers and the growing demand for local sustainable food in the community.
Jerica has been part of Green Top since the “idea” stage back in December 2011 and has taken part in shaping that idea into something more, serving on the initial Steering Committee, then as an elected board member and Vice President. She has been the liaison with Green Top’s attorneys on several endeavors including drafting our bylaws, filing for incorporation and the review of our legal documents for our upcoming owner loan campaign. She has chaired both the Implementation Planning Team, which has designed and planned our owner loan campaign, and also the Planning Committee for this year’s Annual Meeting of Owners. Jerica served on the Hiring Committee for both of our current staff members, and the Site Selection Committee.
Jerica has also enjoyed sharing what she has learned by helping other start-up co-ops both in Illinois and Iowa and this year attended the annual Up and Coming, Up and Running (UCUR) conference in Bloomington, IN this year to learn about what’s next in our timeline so she can continue to serve Green Top and its owners well. She has loved seeing what a group of like-minded people can create with time, dedication and a whole lot of passion. Jerica has a professional background in business analysis, project management, process development and improvement, finance and compliance.
Alan Langrall, Secretary: Alan sees Green Top as a valuable asset to the community. He likes the idea of co-ops and he likes to visit co-op groceries when traveling. Co-op principles fit well with his sense of permaculture principles. Alan is a retired OTR driver–mostly self-employed for years before that as a carpenter, painter, general handyman. He enjoys cooking, eating, and playing music with friends. He likes backyard gardening and traveling the world visiting other gardens while discovering and learning new things. He attended the 2013 “Up and Coming, Up and Running” co-op workshop weekend. He is interested in seeing how the often complementary ideas of permaculture can become an additional guide and resource for this business.
Melanie Shellito, Vice-President: Melanie moved to Bloomington/Normal in 1988 to attend IWU and get her degree in Graphic Design. She stayed in the community, working first as a designer for State Farm, and later opening a retail establishment in downtown Bloomington. In 2003, she and her husband founded the award-winning branding and design studio, Artezen. In 2006, two pivotal events occurred: Melanie’s son Ethan was born, and six months later she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. While unrelated, both events provided motivation to focus on organic/sustainable produce and healthier choices for herself and her family. Melanie now manages her disease largely through diet, and she is grateful to have the local Farmers’ Markets as resources for high quality produce. For her, the opportunity to have local food readily available year-round is one of the most exciting aspects of opening Green Top Grocery. Melanie brings her branding/marketing expertise to organizations striving to build a sustainable food industry — with local clients including The Land Connection and Edible Economy. In addition, Artezen works with ‘positive impact’ organizations across the country, building brands that in turn improve the world we live in. Melanie is a member of GreenBiz Sustainability Professionals, LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability), the International Branding Association, Creative Design Professionals, Bloomington Normal Sunrise Rotary, and the Illinois Wesleyan University Alumni Association.
Monica Adams: Monica joined Green Top in June 2013, becoming owner number 152. She is happy to be a part of such a community-rich, community-driven project. Although her own family has not farmed for several generations, she grew up around many who did. She moved to Bloomington from Saybrook to attend ISU where she studied political science, sociology, and business administration. Monica just recently celebrated her one-year anniversary of joining the Underwriting Department at State Farm. Previously, she worked at a law firm specializing in subrogation. Since joining Green Top she has more appreciation for local business and producers and it has significantly changed her shopping and spending habits. She enjoys talking to people about Green Top and has worked at Farmers Markets and other events and helped plan the annual owners’ meeting last year. Currently, she is on the Outreach Committee and is looking forward to serving on the board.
Aaron Watson: Since becoming both an owner and Outreach Committee member, I have become very interested in the process of community involvement. I’ve lived in Bloomington/Normal for almost my entire life and helping to improve my hometown as a GTG owner unexpectedly sparked within me a sense of responsibility: If I want to see this town improve, then I need to step up and help. Green Top Grocery, this particular project, interests me because it provides for the local produce and the local economy while also operating within a different business model than the one most grocery stores have. McLean County is rich with some of the most fertile soil on the planet. Green Top helps to both highlight and preserve that bounty without having to focus on capitalistic structure — a benefit that allows the store a different kind of freedom than other corporate stores enjoy.
Roger Day: My family holds GTG ownerships #143 and #800, indicating our long-term interest and involvement (#143) as well as our commitment (two ownerships) to GTG. I’ve recently volunteered on both phases of GTG’s Owner Loan Campaign (OLC). My participation on the OLC committee has not only deepened and strengthened my commitment to getting the GTG doors open as quickly as possible, my OLC involvement has helped me learn much more about GTG and its owners. With my expanding knowledge and involvement, I’m eager to take my volunteer efforts to the next level and participate on GTG’s Board of Directors.
Michael Gorman: Michael’s business cards call him a “web developer advocating for an awesome community.” He moved to Bloomington in 2006 and has become very active in the community over the last several years. In 2012, he cofounded Bike BloNo, the community’s bicycle advocacy group, which educates the public about bike safety and advocates for safe, convenient bicycle infrastructure. In 2016, he was appointed to the board of the McLean County Regional Planning Commission, where he helps shape future land-use and community development planning efforts. He serves on the Marketing and Communications team for BNAdvantage, a collaborative effort among major stakeholders in the community to promote Bloomington-Normal to businesses and individuals. Not to mention his actual job – he’s the Senior Web Developer at Illinois Wesleyan University.
Michael joined the Green Top Grocery board in 2016 because he believes strongly in the power that a community-driven effort like Green Top can have on both the local economy and quality of life. Central Illinois will be immeasurably better off with this store up and running, and he thinks Green Top Grocery, once its doors are open, can quickly become a centerpiece of Bloomington’s revitalization.