Upcycling Center Project History

The idea of creating a creative reuse facility in the City of Delaware has been batted around in SDO for many years, spearheaded by David Soliday.

In 2018, the idea blossomed into a vivid vision in a sort-of ‘speed dating’ activity during Kenda Dean’s keynote presentation at the United Methodist Campus Ministers Association Summer Institute, 2018, at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio. Her talk before the activity was inspiring, touching on innovation, authenticity, big adventure, and worthy dreams.

The activity was an exercise in dreaming and sharing that dream, where participants were asked “What is your dream ministry or job, if you got everything you needed?” We each got two minutes to answer the question and respond to what was shared, before switching partners and answering another question. The following prompts all spring-boarded off of the first: “Where does it take place?” “Who is involved?” “How does it raise funds or otherwise sustain itself?” and so on.

Here’s is a glimpse of the fleshed out vision that emerged from the seed of a Delaware Upcycling Station:

  • It can host music, theater, and dance, where set pieces, musical instruments, and costumes can be made from collected materials.
  • It can host pinewood derbies, raft races, and orchestras.
  • It should accept donations that the Common Ground Free Store or Goodwill won’t.
  • It should bring generations together.
  • It should definitely have a café. Even better: a board game café, where we make new games out of old stuff.
  • It will be similar to COSI’s Gadget cafe.
  • It will sell upcycled goods that are hand-made.
  • It can coordinate with the ReStore for materials.
  • It should coordinate with Lutheran Social Services, Andrews House, and the Unity Community Center.
    • The goods can go there, and they can host the board game cafe, music, theater, dance events.
  • It should have upcycling challenges with prizes: people bring in stuff to donate, and folks have figure out what to make with it? For example, what do you do with or what can you make out of…
    • Mini-blinds?
    • A mattress?
    • A sink faucet?
  • It should coordinate with the Delaware Buy Nothing Group
  • Other communities have resilience networks and repair cafés.

Later that same year, at a technical training workshop, a connection was made with Dr. John Krygier, Professor of Environment and Sustainability, who had a similar vision of creating such a facility at OWU. It felt like things were beginning to gel and there was genuine movement in the following year or so, and then the pandemic hit…

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

~Maya Angelou

There was more to the dream than simply working with materials and keeping them out of a landfill. It had to teach attractive alternatives to consumer culture and its single-use lifestyle. Such a community center had to nurture our indwelling creativity and foster a culture of care–starting with physical objects and culminating in humans and other living things.

In summer of 2022, David discovered the SCRAP Creative Reuse shop in downtown Portland, OR, and the vision was rekindled. That fall, this project got back into gear, and connections were made with the OWU Sustainability Task Force, the Delaware Entrepreneurial Center at OWU, Alex Goldenberg’s Community Campus, and the OWU Fine Arts Department. Other centers, doing something similar, were discovered in other cities. (There’s no need to reinvent the wheel!) That October, a steering committee was formed.

We learned that Sacket Flower Farm reused silica, that comes in all kinds of packages, for bloom preservation. We started collecting and storing it, to provide to them in bulk. This is one aim of the facility: to be a hub for collection and reuse throughout our community, gradually expanding the net of ‘things’ that can be repaired, reused, repurposed, or recycled.

The biggest question then was where to start this effort? Potential space at the Unity Community Center was not expected to be usable any time soon. Other possibilities were investigated and exhausted. Then, in spring 2023, the front office space in Haycock Hall, OWU’s 3D arts building, long used for storage, became available to SDO…

David Soliday sits on a donated cabinet, in front of a Lakota star quilt in yellow, black, white, and red.