The Scrap Exchange is hardly a new destination for families. Opened in 1991, the creative reuse center has been giving new life to items that might have ended up in the landfill and materials to artists, crafters and others who are looking to create.
But it does have new digs in a former Durham movie theater that the nonprofit has purchased in the Lakewood Shopping Center. Ownership means the Scrap Exchange can make the cavernous building its own and add programs, including a new summer camp program, for the community. Along with the building, which is more than 20,000 square feet, comes 2.5 acres of outdoor space. A community garden, outdoor play space, sculpture garden and more are part of the plans outside.
"We're invested in our neighborhood and very much looking forward to reaching out into the community," said Chellie LaPointe, outreach and education manager. "It gives us a lot of potential both the retail store and the 2.5 acres of land."
The new space has all of the old favorites. There's the store where you can find everything from fabric scraps and old VHS tapes to baskets and small plastic balls and, maybe, a random arm from an old manikin. The store is great for school projects, pretty much any craft project, Odyssey of the Mind teams or even just a random day when you're looking for something to do. I picked up a basket to fill with gifts for a neighbor.
The design center, just right for teens and adults, has sewing machines, hot T-shirt press, die-cut machines and other tools, which the public can reserve. The Scrap Exchange offers a free community meet-up on the second Sunday of each month during 2nd Sunday Sewing.
And the large make-n-take room, fun for all ages, features all manner of random materials, along with scissors, tape and staplers. Families can come in and use their imagination to create anything. It's popular for birthday parties, school groups and youth gatherings. The cost is $5 per participant for 90 minutes in the space. My five-year-old recently made a rain stick there. My 10-year-old crafted a basketball hoop that hangs off the back of her desk chair.
If you've been to the Scrap Exchange's tables at a local festival, the make-n-take room will be familiar to you. You'll find laboratory supplies mixed with office supplies mixed with little strips of plastic or ribbon in big barrels and a message to go create.
For the not so crafty among us, including myself, it can be a tall order. But LaPointe and her colleague Wendy Ziegler, the education coordinator, say there's no reason for anxiety. This is an open-ended kind of process, Ziegler said, where kids learn problem solving and a few engineering lessons. In fact, you won't find glue in the make-n-take room because organizers want people to figure out other ways to fasten and attach.
"As a society, we tend to be product based," said LaPointe. "Kids are not as product based as we are. The emphasis in the make-n-take room is the process."
In the new space, the Scrap Exchange will be able to offer four weeks of summer camps to kids ages 7 to 12 this year. In the Adventure Builders camp, for instance, campers will use everyday tools to install a permanent outdoor playspace together. Eco-Scouts will build birdhouses, rain barrels and begin gardening in creative containers. DIY Designers will let kids learn skills like tying knots, sewing, knitting, fire starting, shelf building and more. And Marketplace Makers will give budding inventors an opportunity to develop their idea, build a model, make a plan and pitch it to the public, with the help of local experts and entrepreneurs.
The Scrap Exchange also offers classes for kids to adults. They include Preschool Artplay for kids ages 2 to 6 and their parents. The next one is scheduled May 27.
And LaPointe and Ziegler tell me that more plans are on tap for The Scrap Exchange as it settles into its new space.
"It's the right space for us to offer skills-based education programs," LaPointe said.
The Scrap Exchange is now at 2050 Chapel Hill Rd. in Durham. It's open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., daily. If you plan on going to the make-n-take room or the design center, be sure to check The Scrap Exchange's website to reserve your space for the design center or make sure the make-n-take room isn't busy with a birthday party.