Cousminer has spent 58 years breaking down economic and educational barriers for those in need and improving the lives of the people of New York’s South Bronx, one of the most economically distressed urban areas in the country. First as a teacher and then as a founder and now President & CEO of Bethex Federal Credit Union, she helped bring banking to an area that had no banking facilities and no access to credit. The many innovative programs and partnerships offered by Bethex reflect her recognition of the financial, educational, and business needs of the people of the South Bronx and her efforts to meet them. Her work embodies the ideals of community spirit, determination, vision, and cooperation. She is a leader with a quintessentially cooperative spirit.
Dawson was a key figure in laying the intellectual and structural groundwork of the worker cooperative movement. He helped found two nationally significant organizations: the ICA Group, the first professional consulting group for worker ownership, and Cooperative Home Care Associates, the largest worker co-op in the U.S. His work has changed the lives of thousands of workers and some of the foremost worker co-ops in the U.S. attribute their success to his influence. Dawson also understood that much of what affects the quality of work for direct care workers emanates from public policy and so helped start the Paraprofessional Healhthcare Institute, a national research, policy analysis, and technical assistance organization that works for the benefit of all direct care workers.
Dunn is a leader in cooperative financing, devising innovative products and methods that are useful to the entire co-op economy. During her twenty-six year tenure, the Fund has grown from $130,000 to almost $15 million, expanded from lending mostly to food co-ops to all types of co-ops, and never lost an investor dollar. Her skills in banking, communication, and borrower relations and development, her steady recruitment and training of outreach workers, her inclusive decision-making, her ability to innovate to address diverse and multiple needs, and her dedication to the co-op model have been instrumental in starting many co-ops throughout New England. Most recently, she was responsible for CFNE’s selection as one of 20 recipients nationally of the Small Business Administration’s pilot Intermediary Lending Program (ILP), a first use of SBA funds for the benefit of cooperatives.
Ruth’s service on the Agricultural Council of California led to his commitment to the cooperative business model. He helped found the California Center for Cooperative Development – twice – and the California Association of Cooperatives. He has always used and continues to use his service on various boards to promote the cooperative way of business. As Co-chair of the national Rural Cooperative Development Task Force, he was instrumental in creating the Rural Cooperative Development Grant program, a USDA source of funding for rural cooperative development that now supports the work of 29 cooperative development centers across the country. Demonstrating commitment, innovation, and leadership, he has mentored cooperative developers, started cooperatives, developed resources for cooperatives, and won favorable legislation for cooperatives in California.