Brattleboro Holistic Health Center co-op owned and operated by women

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BRATTLEBORO — The Brattleboro Holistic Health Center is owned and operated by Libby Garofalo, CMT, Deirdre Kelley, L. Ac., Maressa Fonger, LMT and Kathryn Holmberg, the front desk manager. The doors at 64 Elliot St., formerly Watercourse Way, were officially opened in January 2011.

Besides offering a wide variety of holistic health care, the co-op hosts social and community events, community film viewings, astrology talks, tarot card readings, herbalism classes, community acupuncture every Thursday, Reiki share, how to give a massage classes, and in the past, a financial literacy program with Alex Fischer of Open Bookkeeping.

Both Holmberg and Fonger maintain the storefront "Herbal Apothecary," where they offer single herbs, blended teas, tinctures, oils, tea pills and locally made health and beauty products. They can even blend teas on the premises for customers.

Garofalo describes working in the cooperative as "like being in a healthy family where everyone's voice is heard and the whole person is considered in the decision making process. We are always working on improving our communication skills our problem solving skills and our listening skills. I see this as an antidote to the capitalistic focus on individuals only looking out for themselves. Here, we are all working together to make everybody's work life and personal lives better."

According to the center's website, its mission is, "to provide quality goods and services focused on accessibility, affordability, sustainability, and a local cooperative economy."

BHHC offers "community education that: promotes the understanding that each individual is a unique integrated being; emphasizes self-care, self- awareness and responsibility; and provides information and referrals for a wide variety of healthcare options."

The owners are also are dedicated to "creating a cooperative work environment that supports the practitioners through self-determination, professional development, peer supervision, personal growth, and a livable wage."

Kelly said their business model is "intentionally horizontal versus a hierarchical environment." She said that the owners are "all equal, that there is no boss, and that each one of them take on different roles in running the business while working within the construct of census based decision making."

Kelley is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Valley Alliance of Worker Co-operatives. As stated on the VAWC's website the "core goal is to provide ourselves with the resources and support we need to advance our co-operatives, empower our members, and benefit more people in our communities." In addition to BHHC, there are currently seven other co-operatives from a variety of industries; including recycling and trash, solar power and construction, in the membership.

Fonger said that for her, being at work "feels like a home away from home and it is comforting and inspiring to be working with close friends. It's also a unique work experience to have so much freedom and support and that is what really allows the business to thrive and continue to grow."

Worker cooperatives are not something new in the United States, however, according to the Democracy at Work Institute's website, there isn't "comprehensive data on the nature and scope of worker cooperatives in the U.S., researchers and practitioners conservatively estimate that there are over 300 democratic workplaces in the United States, employing approximately 7,000 people and generating over $400 million in annual revenues. The number of workers cooperatives has grown steadily over the past 20 years, and is made up of both well-established businesses and new, growing ones."

The owners describe the BHHC as an organic business model that offers spaces for practitioners who offer comparable services.

The co-op currently partners with Yogini Tracy, who offers yoga, chanting and meditation, Susan E. Rosana, of Healthy Change Hypnosis, who offers hypnosis to help with weight loss, smoking cessation, anxiety, insomnia and other issues, and Emily Megas-Russell, who provides compassion-led counseling and ceremony for the life cycle, inclusive, trauma-informed psychotherapy for individuals and couples.

After a period of time, a renting practitioner may be interested in becoming an owner. Destiny Stillwagon, who provides therapeutic and deep tissue massage, is currently participating in the year-long owner's track program, and Rebecca Geekie,who provides therapeutic massage and Reiki, is about to join the owner's track.

The four owners are dedicated and passionate about the BHHC and what they have to offer the residents of Brattleboro and the surrounding area. Kelley offers Japanese style acupuncture and Moxibustion, a Chinese therapy that involves working with burning herbs close to the body as it warms the skin. She also works with a multitude of imbalances and specializes in orthopedics, pain conditions, fertility and labor support.

Garofalo focuses her practice on Swedish, deep tissue and therapeutic massage and also offers services for chronic muscular skeletal issues, range of motion issues, myofascial release as well as pregnancy and postpartum care.

Fonger is available for therapeutic, sports, body and emotional connection massage, myofascial release, and energy work with mind, body and spirit.

Desk Manager Kathryn Holmberg provides customer service, oversees client relations, takes care of scheduling, maintains administrative tasks, manages the community room and answers questions.

To learn more about what the Brattleboro Holistic Health Center has to offer visit their website at brattleboroholistichealth.com and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Laura Wilson can be contacted at lawtrekking@gmail.com.


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