Board of Directors
MICHAEL SPRAGINS, Chair
Mike and his wife Beth moved to Fredericksburg from North Carolina after retirement. Mike, a native of Washington, DC, worked for 28 years with the North Carolina Community College System. Mike has a B.S. degree in Business from Wake Forest University and a J.D. degree from Drake University Law School. After spending several years as an active-duty lawyer in the Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, Mike helped found the Paralegal Technology Program at Johnston Community College and led it for nearly two decades. He then spent several years leading the Business, Public Service, and Technology Department at the college. He is a certified Mediator and founded the Mediation Center at the college, which he also supervised for several years. An avid photographer, Mike enjoys shooting landscapes in the U.S. and Europe. Mike and Beth also enjoy kayaking on Lake Mooney, volunteering at the local library, and preparing healthy food.
ELS VAN WINGERDEN, Vice Chair
Els van Wingerden and her husband Andrew Craig moved to Fredericksburg in 2003 after living and traveling all over the world. They now live on the beautiful Rappahannock River and love this small but active community. They became member-owners of the Fredericksburg Food Co-op in 2017 as local and healthy eating is a priority and the Co-op’s mission statement resonated strongly with Els. She enjoys volunteering for events and has been working on several committees over the last five years in order to make the Food Co-op first a reality, and now that we have an actual store, a successful and diverse community-owned business. She was elected to the Board of Directors in 2019, as vice chair in 2021 and chair in 2022
Before retiring, she worked primarily for and with multilateral organizations such as the World Bank, WHO, UNDP and others with a mission to improve conditions in developing countries. Later, when living in New York, she was involved in educating children who are on the Autism Spectrum; and she was active on the Fredericksburg Walk to End Alzheimer’s Committee for three years.
TONI STEVENS, Secretary
Toni has lived in Virginia most of her life. She moved to Fredericksburg from Northern Virginia in 2020 and is thrilled with the community spirit. Toni currently serves as the Business Manager of ChangeFusion LLC, a management consulting firm, with commercial, federal, state, and local government clients. She has also held management positions at large, small, and international companies including Southern States Cooperative, Computer Sciences Corporation, Liberty Power, IrisGuard, and Culinaria Cooking School.
She has a BS in Business Administration and an MBA from George Mason University. Toni believes that being proactive with our health is critical and that the Food Coop serves as our community hub offering healthy options and education for nutrition while retaining strong relationships with local farmers, producers, and businesses. Her personal interests include fiber arts, friends, and cooking healthy meals. She was president of a knitting guild in Manassas for nine years. Toni loves volunteering with this enthusiastic Food Coop community and looks forward to its continued growth.
RICH LAROCHELLE, Treasurer
Rich is a founding director of the Fredericksburg Food Co-op and has been deeply involved in the essential aspects of helping to make the Co-op a reality for Fredericksburg– from raising funds to recruiting new members to plan events to volunteering at the Farmers Market and representing the Co-op before numerous community groups. Rich has been a board officer since the Co-op was incorporated in 2015, including serving as board chair for 3 years, vice chair for 2 years and as board treasurer this year.
Rich worked for cooperatives for 40 years prior to moving to Fredericksburg in 2014 with his wife Linda who is an accomplished artist and retired art teacher. Rich was Senior Vice President at the Cooperative Finance Corporation until retiring from there at the end of 2013, and Legislative Director at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association where he worked for 12 years. He continues to serve as the Board Chair of the Cooperative Development Foundation, a national c(3) organization that supports the creation of cooperatives as a way of positively impacting economic and social problems.
Rich recently joined the board of the National Food Co-op Initiative which provides essential assistance to communities seeking to start a food co-op. Rich was inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame in 2017. Rich is active in volunteer activities and has been an Adjunct instructor on Cooperative Business at the University of Mary Washington (UMW). Rich and Linda have two sons, including Jeremy who is a professor at UMW, and David who lives in California and is an IT professional. They are the proud grandparents of a wonderful 9-year-old.
Gerald is a 20-year resident of Fredericksburg and has been a member of the board since 2016. From 2017 until 2021, he served as Treasurer of the board and in 2021 served as Chair. He is also co-chair of the Food Co-op’s Sustainability Advisory Committee, a board member of the Virginia Cooperative Council, an organization advocating for cooperatives of all types at the state level, a member of the Virginia Association of Biological Farming, and a member of both the Sierra Club and the Friends of the Rappahannock.
Mr. Anderson is an advocate for cooperatives of all types and brings more than 55 years of experience to the board in the areas of marketing, financial management, engineering, and project and organizational development and management. For the past 20 years, he has served as Project Director at BENMOL Corporation, a small engineering, property development, and property management firm in Alexandria, VA. At BENMOL, Mr. Anderson directs and manages corporate activities such as project planning, feasibility studies, business development, architectural designs, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing designs, construction management, and construction permit and variance requests. In the recent past, Mr. Anderson has also served as a chairman for the League of Women Voters on affordable housing issues both local to Fredericksburg and statewide. And he has taught college chemistry classes at Germanna Community College.
Prior to moving to the region, Mr. Anderson spent 20 years with the Institute of Gas Technology (IGT) in Chicago, IL. At IGT, Mr. Anderson conceived, marketed, directed, and managed research and development efforts on advanced technologies for reducing toxic and hazardous emissions from advanced power generation schemes as well as “green” technologies such as biomass gasification. Mr. Anderson was also the organization’s designated expert on environmental regulations and analysis of the ever-evolving science behind “climate change”.
Between his career at IGT and BENMOL, Mr. Anderson owned and operated his own consulting services business. Clients included UNIDO, the US Department of Commerce, IGT, Gas Research Institute and IBM. Mr. Anderson was responsible for all financial-related activities as well as serving as Principal on projects.
Mr. Anderson has a B.S. and M.S. degree in Chemistry from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, IL.
Valerie Hopson-Bell developed the first local long-term care ombudsman program in the Fredericksburg area in 1999 for the Rappahannock Area Agency on Aging. She continued in that position until July 2007. She has been hailed as a respected, fair and highly effective advocate for the aging community.
Prior to moving to the Fredericksburg area, Ms. Hopson-Bell began her career in aging in 1992 as an activity director at an Adult Care Home in Burlington, North Carolina for clients ranging in age from 19 years old, with intellectual disabilities to 94 years young, with chronic medical health issues, including dementia.
While working at the Adult Care Home, Valerie finished her undergraduate degree in Human Services, with an emphasis in Gerontology at Elon University. During her senior year at Elon, she studied abroad, learning about the human services systems of England, Scotland and The Netherlands. She began her professional career at Alamance ElderCare, Inc., which offered care assistance and case management to seniors, to assist them in remaining independent.
In 2008, Valerie ultimately started own business: ElderCare Connections, LLC. She was a private certified geriatric care manager who helped families create a roadmap to care for their loved ones most effectively. In 2019, Valerie sold ElderCare Connections.
Community is very important to Valerie, whether it’s advocating for the queer community, the homeless population, being on the forefront of opioid harm reduction, or simply taking in the beauty of the Rappahannock River, this is her home.
Valerie and her life partner reside in Spotsylvania County. They have two sons, two grandsons, twin granddaughters and one beautiful great-granddaughter.