Leigh Bowden and Todd Basham from the Coota Co-op.

The Coota Co-op has received a huge boost with the announcement that WattleGROVE, under the direction of Darren Blair has committed $150,000 to their fundraising efforts.

The Co-op is now a further step closer to fulfilling its desire to provide the residents of Cootamundra and surrounds with a suitably scaled store which will stock similar products and have similar capacity to the previous Target Store, which left the township in March, after 35 years of operations.

Co-op Director Leigh Bowden was ecstatic with the news which was brought to a recent meeting.

She said, “I’m very excited about the investment from WattleGROVE. It’s their residents who often can’t travel out of town. They often can’t buy online. They are investing to cater for them and they just want Cootamundra to be viable and vibrant. We are thrilled. Hopefully it inspires confidence from other businesses in the community to invest in the Co-op. We have had some significant investment during lock down. We are near $300,000 now which is nearly half way. There’s 13 weeks to go. This huge investment is what we have been waiting for. If 10 percent of the population give us $1000, that’s 750 people and we are there. There has been comment that we don’t have people with that sort of money in our community, but they are there. People are giving $1000. With Covid people aren’t going away on holidays, they are staying home and that disposable income is there, people have got it.”

Leigh said fellow Director Todd Basham is working on leasing the Target building and that a lot of the stores had stepped up in the interim to supply some of the town’s needs.

She said, “There are still basics such as kids pyjamas and dressing gowns and nighties for older people and bras are a big thing. They are saying where can I get my mother a bra. If stores close and people go out of town the community is suffering from retail leakage which is something Darren understands and we want people to shop in town.”

Leigh said when big companies are calling the shots and banks are saying they are leaving or Target says they are leaving, a community owned store saying right!

We have sovereignty over our own town is something that we can do. Other people can look at us and say look at what Cootamundra is doing.

Leigh said, “Right now it is about getting the funds and getting people to invest, they can do so online and at the Westpac Bank.”

Todd Basham is well-known throughout the community through his involvement in local sport especially around Aussie Rules and community projects.

The local electrician has been pushing for investment in the Co-op alongside the other Directors.

He said, “I basically sent emails out to the contacts I had and one of those was sent to Darren at WattleGROVE. I was blown away at Darren’s investment. We were going along slowly, it has really given us some momentum and the whole steer-ing committee some more enthusiasm. That shows that he has invested in the future of the town and the community. He has future plans to expand WattleGROVE. He realises a shop like the old Target style is a need for the town.”

Todd told the committee on Sunday to aim for the stars and to see where they end up.

Darren Blair of WattleGROVE.

Darren Blair owner and project manager of WattleGROVE Retirement Village and Mountainview Retreat Retirement Village grew up in Bathurst and said he understands the importance of essential shops in country towns.

Darren said, “We think it’s beneficial for the town. It’s a matter of looking after the people of Cootamundra. We like to have a presence in Coota. It came across our desk and we saw it as a fundamental basic requirement that any county town should have. The Target store had such a wide variety and it’s something that needs to be replaced. We are proud to be a part of it and we are happy to be a part of it.”

The point for Darren was when the email came across his desk from Todd who has worked on a number of WattleGROVE buildings when they have been constructed.

“It was at that point and with our experience with retirement villages and understanding country towns, we grew up in Bathurst in the early 70s, we know what they need. The two go hand in hand. I spoke to Todd and said I was very interested in doing it and that was 10 days ago. We officially in writing, committed ourselves to the project at their last meeting. WattleGROVE is going to be in Coota for the foreseeable future and it makes sense that we look after our residents and the wider community.”

Covid has made Coota and WattleGROVE stand out to the seniors.

According to Darren, a lot more local people have moved in because they can move their house quicker.

A few years ago their houses were on the market for 12 months, now they are moving much quicker.

WattleGROVE welcomes community participation in their facilities from card players to meetings and jazz dancing.

Darren said, “We have had some units sitting there for some time but during covid they have all been leased accordingly. The whole area is becoming very poplar with 30 blocks sold in a separate nearby subdivision which has generated further interest in the area.

The township and district around Cootamundra will no doubt be thankful for the enormous contribution WattleGROVE has made.

That great contribution will need to be followed up by everyone who can contribute the smallest amount to larger amounts.

It is clear that both small and large amounts add to the total, however, the WattleGROVE contribution has meant that the fundraising efforts have been accelerated.

Coota might get the store they so very much deserve and wish to have if they keep fighting hard and find the funds needed to reach their target.