The story of the Makers Mill starts with G.A.L.A...
The story of G.A.L.A. began with a potluck supper in the winter of 2006 when a small group of community members came together to ask themselves, “How can we be the change we want to see in the world?” The group was inspired by the phrase “think globally, act locally,” and started referring to themselves as G.A.L.A., for Global Awareness Local Action. They started organizing efforts to support food systems and energy conservation.
Initial actions included establishing a farmers market; town agricultural commission and town energy committee; hosting study circles and educational film screenings; and installing gardens at schools, food pantries, and community spaces.
G.A.L.A. quickly became a respected nonprofit in Carroll County, NH, gaining membership, volunteers, and donor support along the way. Over time, G.A.L.A. organized many community events including town cleanup day, farm to table feast, and monthly contra dances at the town hall.
Over the course of a decade, G.A.L.A.’s impact on the community and environment grew and deepened.
The most popular programs became the hands-on workshops covering such topics as bicycle maintenance, composting, sewing, food preservation, plant identification, boat-building, electrical theory, and seemingly everything in between.
What became clear from these workshops, however, was that the practical skills being taught were secondary to the community building that resulted from bringing people together around hands-on learning. G.A.L.A. had struck a chord: people were craving hands-on educational, community-building experiences. People wanted to build things, make things, fix and repair things, and they wanted to do it together, with others from their community.
By early 2016, G.A.L.A.’s Board started to learn there was a name for this phenomenon: the maker movement.
The maker movement gave language to what G.A.L.A. had been doing all along: hands-on education, collaboration, incubation, problem-solving, and community building.
That winter it was decided: G.A.L.A. would search for a building to establish Carroll County’s first dedicated community makerspace.
The following two years were dedicated to finding the right building, raising funds to buy said building, engaging the community in setting goals for the makerspace, developing floor plans and programs to reflect those goals, and continued fundraising to bring those plans and programs to life.
In the spring of 2017 real estate and funding opportunities aligned and G.A.L.A. purchased a 10,000 sq ft vacant commercial building at 23 Bay St. in Wolfeboro, NH. This purchase was made possible by a grant from the Northern Borders Regional Commission that was matched 1:1 by a successful local crowdfunding campaign. The overwhelming support from hundreds of donors sent a message loud and clear: we want a makerspace and we want G.A.L.A. to make it happen!
The next step was to figure out how to optimize this new building as a makerspace.. We began by organizing a series of field trips to learn about the many shapes, sizes, and focuses of makerspaces across the northeast. These trips helped us imagine creative ways that our Makerspace could serve the specific needs and aspirations of our community.
An open process
Opening doors to the new space
We wasted no time in getting community members into the building to have a look at G.A.L.A.'s new home. More than 100 people participated in a series of "hard hat tours", each concluding in small group brainstorming and visioning sessions to generate ideas for the future makerspace.
Community-sourcing of ideas
We continued this master-planning process with online surveys and public design charrettes at venues including the Wolfeboro Public Library, Wolfeboro Town Hall, and All Saints Church, each with onsite childcare, food, and transportation. There were also online "zooms" to accommodate those unable to attend in-person.
Listening to key partners
We convened focus groups, interviews, and meetings with key community partners including Wentworth Economic Development Corporation (WEDCO), Lakes Region Community College, Mount Washington Valley Job Coalition, and Lakes Region Technology Center, all of which are willing to explore partnership opportunities to help achieve shared goals.
Crow Bar Crew & Site Analysis
As soon as the building was purchased, our dedicated volunteers immediately reached out asking, “How can I help?” So we put them to work! The Crow Bar Crew, as they were called, helped with early demolition and renovations. Their work brought the building closer to code compliance and made it far more comfortable to stage our planning headquarters. We also conducted initial energy analysis, wetland delineation, and environmental testing of soil and water to meet grant funding requirements.
Feasibility Study & Business Plan
Before launching the capital campaign to raise funds for required renovations, we first invested in a robust Feasibility Study that helped inform a Strategic Business Plan. Empower Success Corps (ESC) helped facilitate this process. ESC is a nonprofit organization made up of high-impact volunteers who provide strategic and business consulting to New England nonprofits. Together, we interviewed countless stakeholders and anticipated partners, including several comparable makerspaces across the northeast. The resulting study and plan have been the guiding compass in helping prioritize the many moving parts of this multifaceted initiative.
Raising the final 10% of our fundraising campaign by the end of 2020 means we will stay on track in achieving the goals laid out in the Strategic Plan.
Architectural Designs & Construction Timeline
The establishment of a makerspace constituted a “change of use” at 23 Bay St., triggering the need to bring the building up to code before opening it to the public. An architect and engineering team was hired to work with our volunteer Building Design Council to develop plans that meet the community’s needs, while also satisfying building, fire, and life safety code - within budget! What started as bubble diagrams turned into sketches, which evolved into stamped architectural designs. The scope of work was broken down into 2 Phases, with the total estimated cost for Phase 1 at $1.35 million - with 90% of funds now committed! Raising the final 10% means construction documents can go to bid!
About our Architects
The Building Design Team was composed of Leslie Benson, Principal of Leslie Benson Designs, and Steve Hoffman and Ryan Kanteres of Simons Architects (SSA), all based in Portland, Maine.
“Our team was very excited to be work with Makers Mill and the greater Wolfeboro community on this project. We believe in the mission and we believe that this makerspace project will really enhance the community.
We share common values, as well as an approach to design that is grounded in engaging our clients in an inclusive dialogue, facilitating a collaborative design process, implementing sustainable building practices, and discovering creative and resourceful ways to meet a project’s goals.”
Stocking Tools & Equipment
So as to have some classes up and running as soon as the last nail is pounded into the building renovation, G.A.L.A. launched a Tool Raiser program. It asked people to consider donating tools and equipment they no longer needed for the future workshops and tool-lending library. Ask and you shall receive! Tools of all shapes and sizes showed up at our door all summer while volunteers helped sort and refurbish the in-kind donations. Not only did the Tool Raiser help stock our future makerspace, it also, helped to keep many usable tools out of the landfill.
At this point in time, the makerspace has a fairly good inventory of pre-loved tools and equipment, but there are still many items on the wish list, and a goal to obtain some state-of-the-art new ones either through donations or sponsorships.
Pilots Take Flight
After the contractor’s wrapped with their side of the bargain, the rest of the finish work was left to a dedicated team of volunteers we started referring to as Pilots! This team of about 20 people invested over 1,000 hours in 2022 alone to finish the interior painting, workshop build outs, tool restoration, and front desk and entry construction. There is no way we would have been prepared for a fall 2022 opening without the hardwork and commitment from these individuals, truly. Many of these volunteers transitioned out of the Pilot roles to serve on a committee, which you can learn more about here.
Join our Tool Kitty Campaign!
Now that Phase 1 construction is complete, it's time to outfit the newly renovated space with tools and equipment. It is all starting to feel so much more real don't you think!?
Last year we ran a very successful Tool Raiser program that brought in some pre-loved equipment and tools for the shops, but there are still some very specialized items we need such as a panel saw, chop saw, plasma cutter, a large anvil, metal fabrication table, laser cutter, CNC router, 3D printer, and more.
Join our Tool Kitty Campaign to help stock the makerspace with tools and equipment so we are ready to hit the road running when the doors open!