New Co-Op center opens to serve community in a variety of waysSep 08, 2022 11:52AM ● By Bill Hardesty
After many hours of seeking public comments, designing the space, obtaining funding, and building out the area, the South Salt Lake City Community Opportunity (The Co-Op) Center is opening at the Columbus Center.
The Co-Op is housed inside the former Columbus Branch Library.
"The Co-Op is a place for our community to work and gather with access to the tools that can help them connect, advance, and support one another," states The Co-Op fact sheet.
"We want it to have a small business and entrepreneur feel," Sharen Hauri, Department of Neighborhoods director, said. "It is not a place you come to play games."
The Co-Op staff have planned four grand opening events targeting groups of users.
On Aug. 23, the first grand opening was held—Back to School Night. There were school supplies giveaways, food, games, activities, and information on childcare and after-school resources, including homework help. The Co-Op is co-located with the Promise SSL Hser Ner Moo Community Center and the Best Buy Teen Tech Center.
Art for All, the second grand opening, was held Aug. 31. This event highlighted the SSL Arts Council's involvement with The Co-Op. One of the two classrooms is a dedicated art studio where various low-cost art classes will be taught. The grand opening event included art activities, music and food.
Two grand opening events are scheduled for September.
On Sept. 13, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., a Senior Meet ‘n’ Greet is planned. The hope is that a symbiotic relationship develops with The Co-Op and the SSL Senior Center housed in the Columbus Center. Food, bingo, activities, and resource information will be provided at the grand opening event.
The last grand opening is also planned for Sept. 13 from 4 to 6 p.m. The "Back to Business Night" focuses on the support The Co-Op can give to small businesses and entrepreneurs. There are rooms for interviewing, video conferencing and small meetings. The tech lounge also offers free Wi-Fi, printing services and lendable computers. The event is also a time for networking.
In addition, the South Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce will move into the location. This move will allow them to offer more help to entrepreneurs using the center to start a business.
Times and services
The services at The Co-Op are programmed around three areas:
• Digital Inclusion: Residents can connect to free high-speed internet with their own devices or use one at The Co-Op. There are also classes or one-on-one sessions to become more digitally confident.
• Financial Empowerment: The SSL Financial Empowerment Center is moving to The Co-Op. The center provides one-on-one financial counseling to help residents reduce debt, improve credit, create a budget and build savings. All services are free and are possible because of a partnership with Mountain America Credit Union.
• Career and Business Advancement: Residents can use the various resources at The Co-Op to advance in their careers or develop a business. The Co-Op provides opportunities to make valuable connections, including professional organizations and nonprofits.
Lucas Horns, an intern in the Neighborhood Department, is managing The Co-Op. The Co-Op will be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. because they have classes scheduled at all times of the day. However, they might not be open to drop-ins every night that late for now while they hire staff. λ
The Wi-Fi is available as a Comcast Lift spot.
Digital Navigators are volunteers at The Co-Op. They help bridge the digital divide for residents by addressing their needs. For example, they might help them acquire a low-cost computer. They might help them develop basic computer skills. They might help residents complete online employment applications. They might help residents use essential apps like word processing, spreadsheet or email.
"Volunteers do not need to be particularly proficient at computer skills. Rather, we are looking for outgoing volunteers who enjoy helping others and are accepting of people from all backgrounds," according to the SSL.gov website.
Individuals can contact Lucas Horns at [email protected] or go to SSL.gov and search for Volunteer Opportunities at The Co-Op. λ