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August 30, 2014
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Learning from one another: Transition Honesdale builds community through sharing skills

Katie Baxter demonstrating woodworking on a Barns #2 Velocipede scrollsaw at Ant Hill Farm.


HONESDALE, PA — When Hurricane Irene hit the area, even though it put people in the dark for a while, it also woke up a lot of people.

What are we going to do without electricity? Without refrigeration? Without water for washing and flushing toilets? Without food from the supermarket?

These are some of the questions asked during the storm. Were any of them answered?

Answering questions like this is the concern of a local group called Transition Honesdale which is initiating a major new program called “SkillShare.”

“Envisioned as a network of people who are passionate about doing, learning and teaching, the SkillShare is a creative attempt to unearth the ‘collective genius’ of the greater community,” said Donni Hoffman, coordinator of the program.

For instance, someone may want to know more about beekeeping. There will be a program taught by local beekeeper Tom Morrisette. Another young farmer may want to know how to butcher a chicken. That skill will be taught by Billy Templeton and Amanda Avery, who raise chickens.

“Every person is both a student and a teacher and has something to share, whether it’s knowledge, a skill or simply energy,” Hoffman said.

The purpose of the project is to help people relearn forgotten knowledge, comprehend new knowledge and teach skills that are applicable to our lives today and in the future, she said.

“As co-organizer of this project, I’m hoping the Honesdale SkillShare will be the ‘go-to place’ for people who are looking to do more for themselves, this community and—hey! I’ll say it—for the planet,” she said.

“We want people to be more self-sufficient when times get tough,” said Jane Bollinger, another Transition leader.

The group has been conducting a SkillShare survey throughout the community at events that they have been conducting. The survey asks two questions: one, skills you would like to learn and two, skills you would like to teach.

“We’re finding a lot of skilled people who are eager to teach what they know to their neighbors,” said Katie Baxter, another Transition leader. Baxter is ready to teach people a long-lost skill of fashioning wood on an instrument from the 18th Century called a velocipede scroll saw. “You sit on a kind of bicycle and pedal the saw,” she said. “Velocipede is the old-time word for bicycle,” she said.

“Our grand goal is to have a searchable data base of people who can teach skills and others who want to learn, even informally,” Bollinger said.

Where will they hold these classes?

“Anywhere we can in the community,” Baxter said. “In church halls, community centers, private homes, barns, anywhere. This will be a community program with the community basically running it according to what people want.”

“We don’t expect this to happen tomorrow,” Hoffman said. “It’s probably going to take time for it to catch on.”

The basic push of the program will be:

• to conduct ongoing-workshops of skills,

• to form a skills network of people who can teach and who want to learn,

• to build a library of resources and books that can tell people “how-to.”

The time and place of the workshops will be listed on the group’s website, www.transitionhonesdale.org.

So far, Transition Honesdale has accomplished two projects: the creation of a community garden, located at Ellen Memorial Center on Golf Hill Road in Honesdale; and the creation of a newsletter that is both online and in print.

“We want to empower people who can make educational opportunities that can benefit themselves and the community,” Hoffman said. “We have a lot of brilliant people in this community who need only to get linked with others. We want to build self-sufficient people who want to be a part of building community.”

The group has a small number of people involved in carrying out the work of transition. “We will have to rely on our participants if we are going to get this work done,” she said. “It’s a worthy, worthwhile task we have set out to do here in Honesdale. We trust there are many here who will willingly share our vision.”


SkillShare classes
October 20: Salve Making. Learn how to make healing salves in your home. Workshop will feature calendula and comfrey salves.
November 12: Beautiful homemade gifts. Make holiday gifts, details still being worked out, but homemade soap, knitting or sewing and possibly simple wooden gifts or card making.
November 17: CraftLuck! Topic TBA
December 13: Cookie Exchange. Bring a plate of your favorite cookies and go home with a plate full of other people’s favorite cookies. Recipes will be collected. Holiday Hour and open work session.