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Talent Maker City undertakes rebuild effort

Talent Maker City leaders see Almeda fire destruction kitty-corner from their location every day. The nonprofit has pitched in from the day of the fire and is transitioning to a new phase that will produce bed frames built by students for fire victims.

“We have to remind ourselves of our resiliency. We can help ourselves and help each other, not wait for it to come,” said Ryan Wilcoxson, Talent Maker City executive director. “The beds are where we are starting with this rebuilding project. We aren’t in a position to demolish and start building houses.”

A partnership with Portland-based Girls Build, which will provide resources for Talent Maker City to offer workshops for bed building, was finalized Oct. 1. Girls Build offers basic instruction to girls age 8 to 14 in a variety of skill-centered endeavors.

Started four years ago, Talent Maker City has developed a space where creation of prototypes, learning through workshops and small-scale manufacturing occurs. STEAM education — science, technology, engineering, arts and math — for students has been a major emphasis.

Talent Maker City worked with Rogue Acton Center and Rogue Climate to set up a mutual aid station in the parking lot outside TMC at the corners of Main Street and Talent Avenue immediately after the fire. The groups had supplies and necessities that fire victims needed, along with Wi-Fi, and food from restaurants. Rogue Climate and Rogue Action Center now handle most of the aid operations as Talent Maker City moves back into a more usual scenario.

A “Unido + Fuertes/Rise Up + Rebuild” campaign, reflecting the large number of Hispanic families that have lost homes in the fire, has been started by Talent Maker City. Tote bags and T-shirts with the campaign theme screen-printed on them are for sale, with proceeds going to aid fire victims.

Many students have participated in Talent Maker City workshops over the four years of the organization’s existence, said Ali French, program director. The group has worked closely with Phoenix-Talent School District, and collaboration will continue to meet educational needs in the community.

“We know all these families. We know many of them were devastated. It’s kind of personal for us,” said French. “It is now our mission that we keep our families here.”

To meet COVID-19 guidelines, the bed-building workshops will have three instructors for each four students. The workshops will be held once per week, with plans to start Oct. 11.

The goal is to have 80 bed frames, a mix of queens and twins, built by Dec. 20. The beds are a basic design, using a lot of plywood and some lumber, that kids can put together, said Wilcoxson. Home Depot is providing lumber to start the project, and Talent firm Green Mountain Woodworks will provide hardwood legs for the beds.

Native Spanish speaker Laura Quintero, a member of Talent Maker City’s board of directors, often provides translation for Hispanic students in workshops. While most are bilingual, there are times she helps them.

“They have English as a second language. If they don’t understand some instructions, I can help them,” said Quintero. She said the bed-building project is good therapy for students who have been displaced by the fires.

“When you make things for yourself, it’s like medicine,” said Quintero. “Having people creating captures a memory of an item.

Employing a lot of the tools Talent Maker City already has to help with recovery is envisioned, said French. There are CNC machines, a full woodshop and sewing machines capable of heavy-duty work. The organization is seeking grants to fund its work.

Talent Maker City has already produced desks for home-schooling pods and that might be a future project to aid community rebuilding. Another could be construction of basic LED lamps, which might involve use of 3-D printers, Wilcoxson said.

Emergency response had been a theme for Talent Maker City this year.

“We have been getting really good at disaster response. We have an incredible skill set among the networks of makers we have helped grow throughout Southern Oregon,” said Wilcoxson. “We can respond quickly. We can bridge gaps.”

Talent Maker City partnered with Asante to produce PPE when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, producing masks and pieces for ventilator filter systems. Individuals used 3-D printers at home to make products, and Talent Maker City printers were running 24 hours per day. By early May the effort had created over 2,500 pieces of PPE.

“We have been closed to the public and to our members since March. We haven’t had workshops and things like that because of COVID. We want to be a maker space,” said Wilcoxson.

Information on how to sign up for the workshops is available online at www.talentmakercity.org.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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