New Community Market opens in Coleman Family Center

The bright colors stand out in the new Coleman Community Market. They’re the colors of fresh fruits and vegetables, items not seen in a store in Coleman in several years.

The new market opened on April 6 in the Coleman Family Center. The small town on the western end of Midland County with a population of around 1,300 has been a food desert since the grocery store on the west edge of the city limits closed. The Dollar General located near downtown is convenient but doesn’t offer fresh produce or meat.
Hazel Rydman (center) checks out at the new market.
Word is starting to spread about the new market. Hazel Rydman, born and raised in Coleman, stopped in with a neighbor after seeing a TV news story early one morning. The senior citizen says, “I think it’s wonderful. It’s been too long since we’ve had anything like this.” She normally adds a trip to the supermarket when she drives the 20 miles to Midland for her doctors' and other appointments.

The Community Market is the result of a collaboration between the Greater Midland Coleman Family Center and the United Way of Midland County. The family center operates under the umbrella of Greater Midland. Andrea Secrease is the executive director of the Coleman and North Midland Family Centers. “There’s been an interest in bringing a project like this to Coleman for some time,” she says. 
Andrea Secrease is the executive director of the Coleman and North Midland Family Centers.
United Way has invested $90,000 to help get the market off the ground and is committed to supporting the market for two years. “We will be in the pilot phase for the first 24 months as we try to reach a sustainable model,” says Secrease. 
The market charges just ten cents above the wholesale price for each item.
“United Way is very committed to the health of our community,” says Holly Miller, United Way’s chief executive officer. The funding enabled the family center to do some remodeling, buy the shelves, coolers, cash register, and the products. Miller adds, “They’ve done a really great job of visioning to best serve the needs of the community.” 

The Coleman Community Market is now open
The new market is located in a former classroom in one wing of the building. The family center is located in what was Coleman’s Middle School before those students, teachers, and staff relocated in the high school building in 2009. The family center provides a wellness center, early care and education for children from birth through age five, before and after school programming for kids in grades K-6, summer camps, food pantry, a clothing center, certified community health workers, and now the market. Miller says, “They are a hub in the community.”

Larry Holton, another retiree making his first visit, says, “It’s nice, neat, and clean … the prices don’t look too bad.” Holton usually travels 10 miles to Clare to buy groceries. 
Larry Holton scans the shelves at the new market.
Secrease notes that people are excited to have fresh produce. She says the market plans to add to that, “We do intend to partner in the summer months with local farmers and produce stands to offer fresh, locally grown produce when in season.”

The project will be monitored by United Way. 

“We have an opportunity to learn, grow, and hopefully replicate what we have here,” says Miller. “There are areas north and west of the city of Midland that still need access to healthy, accessible food,” Miller notes. Transportation is often a factor. 
Holly Miller is the chief executive officer of the United Way of Midland County.
The store’s hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m.-7:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Each item for sale is priced 10 cents above the wholesale cost. The market accepts cash, credit, and debit cards but not Bridge Cards. Secrease says, “Our model is to increase food security, year round, making it more accessible, affordable, and available.” The market is open to all residents of Coleman and the surrounding areas.

Next door in the Coleman Family Center is the Community Clothing Center. Gently used clothing and household items are available. The center suggests a donation of two dollars for up to two bags of items.

Both the community market and the clothing center are in need of volunteers and financial support. There are links on the center’s website to make a donation or to sign up to volunteer.

Read more articles by Ron Beacom.

Ron Beacom is a communications professional and managing editor of Catalyst Midland. He's currently a freelance writer for the Midland Daily News and the producer/host of "Second Act: Life at 50 Plus" for WDCQ-Delta College Public Media (PBS). He was the co-producer on the WDCQ documentary "Breached! The Tittabawassee River Disaster."
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