Co-op story to be told

A mercantile store telling the story of Central Alberta’s co-operative movement will open at Red Deer’s Sunnybrook Farm Museum in 2013.

Gary Glasser of Concentra Financial (left)

A mercantile store telling the story of Central Alberta’s co-operative movement will open at Red Deer’s Sunnybrook Farm Museum in 2013.

The museum received a $50,000 donation on Tuesday from Red Deer Co-op, Servus Credit Union, Concentra Financial and The Co-operators Insurance to support the development of a Co-operative Mercantile Store, a $120,000 exhibition building on the agricultural museum site.

Larry Parks, general manager of Red Deer Co-op, spearheaded the project because he thought it would be great to celebrate the United Nations’ 2012 International Year of Co-operatives.

“I thought we could build a co-op store somewhere,” said Parks. “The farm was the perfect spot.”

He called other co-operatives and the three other partners were quick to get on board.

“I think we’ll be able to make it like an old-fashioned general store and I’m sure there will be a designated area for the Credit Union, for Concentra, Co-operators,” said Parks. “We just think it’s a good fit and it will tell the co-op story.”

Parks said the co-operatives are closely linked in history as well.

Museum executive director Ian Warwick said the donation is significant.

The project’s total cost is estimated at $120,000, with the rest expected to come from government grants and private donations.

The idea was pitched at a time when the South Development project at the farm is being formed to showcase a living farm community. Included in the project is a 1920s heritage garage, which is underway and will be next to the new store.

Projects like these take some time to build because volunteer labour is used, Warwick said.

The project also includes relocating the museum’s entrance and parking areas off Botterill Crescent, plus adding the Calder School Interpretive Centre.

“When you think of a farm community, the residents didn’t always go into town, they went to the store,” said Warwick.

Warwick said the community will be able to get involved in the project by donating artifacts from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.

Last year, the museum saw an estimated 12,000 visitors come through.

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