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Walking co-op builds healthy lifestyle and more through low-stress exercise.

CO-OP MONTH

Co-ops come in all shapes and sizes and can do just about anything that's legal. No better proof is at hand (or, in this case, at foot) than with Colorado's Walk2Connect Cooperative (W2C)--a worker-owned cooperative for walkers. Yes, walkers!

W2C helps people and communities become healthier and more connected while advancing awareness of the importance of designing walkable communities and enjoying the pedestrian experience.

Started as a limited liability company a few years ago, a team of W2C leaders decided in 2016 that the cooperative model better fit the spirit of their grassroots, community-driven walking business. The goal of W2C is to bring people together from all walks of life to share the experience of walking: whether for an hour, two hours or even for a day or two.

The co-op's members are expert walking leaders who develop and manage creative, custom-walking contracts with business, nonprofit and government partners. They help sustain an ever-widening menu of free community walks (as many as 40 to 50 per week) that bring people together, highlight their surroundings and build healthy exercise habits.

Revenues last year were in six figures, with public and private partnerships in Metro Denver and rural Colorado locales such as Alamosa, Yampa Valley/Craig and parts of Boulder County. Examples of recent community walks include a bi-lingual walk, meditative walking retreat, sunrise walk, dog walk and a farmers' market walking series.

Bill Stevenson, director of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Cooperative Development Center, recently experienced first-hand the work of W2C when he joined a group of Iranian immigrant women out for a walk in a Denver park.

"I happily accepted W2C's executive director's invitation to walk, but expected nothing more than some pleasant company and good exercise in a park I was already familiar with," says Stevenson. "But the experience was so profoundly more than that. There was this almost magical connection, in just 45 minutes or so, with women I had never met and with whom I did not share a language or any personal history.

"I departed feeling a very unexpected, and very special rapport, with folks who were strangers just an hour before, as well as with the clearly caring W2C staff who helped lead us."

Sandra Baca

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union

Caption: The goal of Walk2Connect (W2C) is to bring people together from all walks of life to share the experience of walking. It started life as a limited liability company, but leaders decided the co-op model better fit the spirit of their grassroots, community-driven business. Photos courtesy W2C

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Title Annotation:Walk2Connect
Author:Baca, Sandra
Publication:Rural Cooperatives
Geographic Code:1U8CO
Date:Sep 1, 2017
Words:426
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