Our Board

Our Board

Our board of directors exists to represent our member-owners and to ensure that their needs are met. The board meets regularly and reports to the membership at the Annual Meeting in the spring. We are also responsible for board perpetuation and stewarding a financially healthy enterprise well into the future through long-range strategic planning and monitoring of our progress. We operate under Policy Governance, a system of governance originated by John Carver in which we empower and hold accountable one delegate: our General Manager who is responsible for successful operation of the store.

We have committed to board education and development as a way of laying a solid foundation for governance of the co-op. To guide us in board development, we work with our Cooperative Board Leadership Development consultant via monthly calls and an annual board retreat.

Board Meetings

Meetings are held from
6:30 – 9:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month.

Member-owners are welcome to attend regularly scheduled board meetings. If you are interested in attending, please contact us at board@eastaurorafood.coop
in advance of the meeting.


Board of Directors

This is an exciting time to serve on the board! Our current board of directors is comprised of 9 member-owners of East Aurora Cooperative Market. Board elections take place annually with open seats staggered each year. Board terms are three years.

Derek Punaro

Board President, 2017
Derek’s professional experience is wide-ranging, and includes a deep knowledge of technology, e-commerce, information architecture and marketing and business development. He has three years of nonprofit board experience, having served as treasurer, CFO and CIO for the Central Terminal Restoration Corp. Derek looks forward to seeing the East Aurora Co-op open for operation, envisioning the co-op growing into a stable, self-sustaining and valuable business for the community. He thinks the co-op model provides an excellent opportunity for success by giving its members and customers input into the operation of the business, and the ability to share in its success.

Andrew Layer

Vice President, 2018
Andrew is an engineer at Moog and an EAHS graduate. He and his wife Holly have been members of the co-op since returning to Western New York four years ago. Andrew has held various engineering roles at General Electric and Moog over the past ten years. In addition to his technical background, he has an MBA from Indiana University with a concentration in strategic planning. Since joining the EACM in 2011, Andrew has served as chair of the finance committee, working with the board and our consultants to develop the co-op’s business plan and financial projections. He envisions the EACM as a cornerstone of our community, serving locally sourced foods, providing nutritional education, and serving as a place where producers and consumers can come together in partnership

Mike Benzin

Treasurer, 2018
Treasurer and Finance Committee member Mike has more than 25 years’ experience in fundraising and management with local non-profit organizations. Through Mike Benzin Developments, a private practice dedicated to helping mission-focused organizations realize their goals and objectives, Mike provides fund & constituent development, marketing & promotion, governance and organizational planning services and solutions. An active community volunteer beyond the East Aurora Co-op, the Canisius College graduate is also a board member and Vice President with AdoptionSTAR and board member and President of the FBI Buffalo Citizens Academy Alumni Association. He is also a Leadership Buffalo graduate, a former chair and 20-year board member of the Taste of Buffalo, and was a Business First “40 Under Forty” honoree. Mike is a believer in wholesome and locally-grown foods and also understands the dietary challenges faced by people with food allergies and sensitivities. The Eden native and former North Buffalo resident lives in the village with his wife and two children.

Theresa Bindig

Director, 2019

Theresa Bindig lives in East Aurora with her husband and three children. She is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist doing Nutrition Counseling/Consultation through her small private practice in JoyWheel Yoga and Wellness on Main Street East Aurora.

Why are you interested in serving on the co-op’s board of directors?
Over the past five years I feel I have participated in many small ways to help bring the co-op to fruition. Serving on the board would allow me to use the skills that I have acquired as a food and nutrition expert, small business owner and effective communicator to further that cause in a much broader and more integral way. I believe my enthusiasm and experience can help guide the co-op to be a strong anchor and a beacon for health to our community.

Summarize your professional experience and relevant skills.  What unique skill, personal quality or perspective will you bring to the board?
I have 13 years experience as an expert in the field of food and nutrition as a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, and have strong people and communication skills. I am also a small-business owner with ties in the East Aurora and surrounding communities. Working daily in my field puts me in a unique position to note changing trends and interests in the world of food and nutrition. Setting up and running my nutrition counseling practice has allowed me to obtain experience in the area of business management. These skills would allow me to bring a unique perspective to the East Aurora Cooperative Market Board of Directors.

What is your vision for the future of our cooperative?  What makes you passionate about the co-op and/or our mission?
My vision for the future of our cooperative is that of a strong economic and educational anchor in the community that is a beacon for those searching for real and wholesome foods to nourish ourselves, our families, and our environment. I see the cooperative as a place where one can enter and feel that the hard work has been done for them, the choices set before them have been carefully made with personal and environmental health in mind. I see the Co-op as a community based business that is working to create economic growth. As a dietitian/nutritionist, mom and board member it is vital to me to have a better choice for myself, my family, and my community.

Jacob Keller

Director, 2017
Jacob, a financial adviser, has worked in the financial services industry for the past 5 years. He believes the East Aurora Cooperative Market is a brilliant undertaking in that it addresses both social, economic and environmental concerns. He thinks of the co-op as both a friendly neighborhood store with products that are special in that have passed criteria that embody the values and goals of co-op members, as well as being a valued establishment in our community that will be a base and catalyst for civic engagement.

Gary Kimmel-Hurt

Director, 2019

Gary Kimmel-Hurt has recently retired from Suicide Prevention and Crisis Services of Buffalo, where he worked in fund development and also volunteered as a hospital advocate. He is the former owner of East Aurora Locksmith.
Why are you interested in serving on the co-op’s board of directors?
This is an exciting time for East Aurora as the East Aurora Cooperative Market prepares to open the doors on their brand new store. I have volunteered both in the temporary co-op store and helped out with informational stands, and truly believe in the mission of our co-op. I am impressed with the hard work and dedication of the co-op’s founders, volunteers, and board of directors, and want to work with and share my sense of commitment with such an inspirational group of people. I want to be part of making the EA Cooperative Market an integral and successful addition to our community.
Summarize your professional experience and relevant skills.  What unique skill, personal quality or perspective will you bring to the board?
I recently retired from Crisis Services of Buffalo where I worked in fund development using social media to increase awareness of the organization’s mission and to raise funds. I also volunteered as a hospital advocate. Over the last ten years, both in Japan and Buffalo, I have worked with nonprofit organizations involved with crisis counseling, suicide prevention, and sexual/domestic violence. As a phone counselor, trainer and supervisor, I have extensive experience working in small diverse groups and have developed strong interpersonal skills.

I have owned two successful businesses and held a variety of positions where I’ve had to quickly acquire new skills – both intellectual and manual. I‘m very adaptable and have always been able to work well in groups. My counseling and negotiating skills, and experience with building construction would all be valuable assets for the co-op board.

Throughout my career I’ve learned that listening and thinking before responding has resulted in smoother interactions and positive results. The key to working in groups is patience and an open mind.
What is your vision for the future of our cooperative? What makes you passionate about the co-op and/or our mission?
Of course, getting the store opened! But more than that, a store that provides healthy food from local growers and offers classes on healthy eating and general well-being. The co-op can be a way to demonstrate a commitment to a lifestyle that is becoming harder to find in many communities. Involving co-op members and reaching out to non-members can generate a feeling of connectedness, of ownership in something good for the community. Our co-op can become something that everyone in East Aurora can feel pride in and feel a part of.

Kathy Pomerhn

Director, 2017
Kathy is the Director of Operations of the Boys & Girls Club of East Aurora, a position she has held for the past 23 years. In her work with the Boys & Girls Club of East Aurora, she has worked closely with their Board of Directors, has been responsible for all of the finances at this location, as well as the Holland and Springville Boys & Girls Clubs. Kathy also played a key role in the marketing of the Boys & Girls Club, has worked on many fundraising committees and chaired the bi-annual “Bids for Kids” Auction. Her vision of the cooperative is that it becomes a thriving part of the community and that East Aurora is the perfect community to have a Co-op that will be a boost to our local economy, support our local farmers and businesses and offer shoppers quality food and products for our families.

Kara Spencer-Ching

Board Secretary, 2018
Kara is trained as an attorney and practiced law in New York City before moving to East Aurora with her family. After finishing law school, she completed a federal district court clerkship before joining two large international law firms where she worked on a variety of matters involving mostly complex commercial litigation, as well as some transactional work. After having her first child, she transitioned into an administrative human resources role at my law firm. After moving to East Aurora in 2006, Kara continued to work on employee performance and partnership evaluation on a freelance basis until 2010.  In addition, she has enjoyed volunteering, including being a Girl Scout leader and working with others on church committees. Kara envisions the cooperative becoming a vibrant anchor of our community that provides access not only to high-quality wholesome food, but also to programs and information that improve and enrich the lives of its members and the larger community.  She also sees the cooperative playing an important role in helping the local economy thrive both by providing a marketplace for local farms and small businesses and by attracting shoppers to the village.

Sandy Szalinski

Director, 2019

Sandra Szalinski is a scientist and writer who works for Restoration Services, Inc. providing environmental compliance and communication support services to the U. S. Department of Energy at the West Valley Demonstration Project.
Why are you interested in serving on the co-op’s board of directors?
I want to contribute to the Co-op’s success. I am a member and investor in the Co-op because I believe in its mission and vision, so it is the right place for me to devote time and energy.

Summarize your professional experience and relevant skills.  What unique skill, personal quality or perspective will you bring to the board?
With many years of technical and managerial experience in industry and additional roles as a volunteer in numerous organizations, I know how to work cooperatively with others to set goals, develop plans, solve problems, and communicate with internal and external stakeholders. My unique skill is taking complex information and making it understandable for diverse audiences. I am excited by new challenges and will work hard to fulfill my responsibilities.

What is your vision for the future of our cooperative?  What makes you passionate about the co-op and/or our mission?
I envision a thriving cooperative market that sells locally sourced, natural foods, pays fair wages, and provides educational resources for healthy living. Corporate agriculture and massive food processing harm the environment and sicken the consumers. I envision the cooperative market as a place that provides resources that enable healthy living for both suppliers and consumers. While the market is nearing opening day, there is much to be done to establish a sustainable business and I want to help drive it forward.

east aurora coop

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