Civic Council Awards Honor Food Coop’s Holtz and Past President Fleischer

Joe Holtz, a co-founder of the Park Slope Food Coop, will receive the 2011 Lovgren Professional Award, while one-time Civic Council president Mort Fleischer has earned this year’s Lovgren Volunteer Award. The awards ceremony will take place at the Civic Council’s general meeting for members on Thursday, June 2. (Read more about the meeting here.)

The awards, presented every year since 1979, are named for George Lovgren, a local activist who organized the campaign to save the firehouse on Union Street when the city threatened to shut it down in the 1960s.

Joe Holtz co-founded the Food Coop with nine other Brooklynites in February 1973. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he became the Coop’s first paid staff member, earning the title of general coordinator in 1975. In the mid-1990s, he was named its first general manager. Today, working with eight other general coordinators, he organizes the activities of the member-owned and operated food store. It is a constantly growing local institution, with nearly 16,000 active members, a paid staff of 67, and a sales volume last year exceeding $41 million.

Since it was founded, the Food Coop has focused on its members working together to provide good food at low prices. Emphasizing sustainable agriculture and a respect for the environment, the Coop makes a great effort to purchase organic, minimally processed, healthful foods, often grown locally. Promoting diversity and equality among members, the organization seeks “to maximize participation at every level, from policy making to running the store,” according to its website.

Holtz also works with start-up and established food cooperatives in Brooklyn and beyond to encourage these values beyond our neighborhood.

The same night, Mort Fleisher will receive the Lovgren Volunteer Award. Serving as Civic Council president from 1982 to 1984, Fleischer stepped down as a trustee only last year after 40 years of continuous service. His service to the community began at a time when Park Slope was not nearly as fashionable as it is today.

One of Fleischer’s biggest achievements during his four decades of service has been his work on the House Tour. When he first joined the Council, the tour featured just a few homes, a flower sale, and a friendly meeting of neighbors. He envisioned the annual event on a grander scale, as a means to improve the community’s reputation and launch a brownstone revival. Working with trustees and other volunteers, he helped choose sections of the neighborhood to highlight, persuaded owners to show off their houses, and developed print materials for the tour.

By 1981, the House Tour consisted of 14 homes, entry to the Brooklyn Museum, a guided tour of the Grand Army Plaza arch, and more. The spirit of the event – a big showcase for community homes – continues to this day.

Since 1979, the Lovgren Award has highlighted the accomplishments of local professionals and volunteers. Well over 60 individuals and organizations have been honored. Recent recipients include former Prospect Park Administrator Tupper Thomas; Matt Pintchik, founder of the Park Slope Volunteer Ambulance Corps; Robert Guskind, founder of the Gowanus Lounge blog; Catherine Bohne, then-owner of The Community Bookstore who helped launch the Buy in Brooklyn campaign; long-time Community Board 6 Chair Jerry Armer; and Sean Andrews, Brooklyn YMCA executive director. More information about the award is available on our website.

— David Herman and Tom Miskel

 from the May 2011 Civic News