Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hyde Park Festival Recap

The Hyde Park Festival, which took place on September 10 and 11, was a success. It certainly was a challenge. We had some bumpy months leading up to the festival, with things changing pretty frequently. We had bands cancel last minute, and volunteers fail to show up. But we managed to fill all the gaps.

The games that Jake's on Main (from St. Charles, MO) loaned us were a huge hit. The kids packed them all day both days. The face painting also had a long line throughout the festival. We also raffled off Life is Good t-shirts every hour of the festival.

Tim and Christy Sawyer, potters from St. Charles, set up a spinning wheel and taught kids how to throw pottery. A local artist painted a watercolor in the park on Sunday.

The police flew their helicopter in and hung out for a while, describing the different parts of the helicopter to the kids. The fire department pulled the truck out and let kids climb around. Our historic walking tour took about 5 groups to different historic sites in the neighborhood, including the Bremen Theater.

A few stomp groups opened the festival, and Andre Williams closed Saturday's entertainment with a 2 hour long jazz/soul set. Our own band of missionaries, Reformation Sound, performed on Sunday. There were several local rap groups, a rock band, and a group of 3 young girls who performed some impressive tap dancing.

We are already planning for next year. It will be Saturday, September 8. We are getting entertainment lined up. We hope to have more vendors, more promotion, and hopefully more help. If you'd like to get involved, let us know! Contact our executive director, Dr. Terry Goodwin, at

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pallets and Pews

We enjoy taking custom orders in the Opportunity Center woodshop. It gives us a chance to try new things and expand our skill sets, which means we can make better and varied products, and we have more skills to teach. All of our missionaries who work in the woodshop were amateurs, so we've been learning as we go. We try to fund most of our operation with the products we can make with our hands, so improving the quality and variety of our products allows us to become more sustainable.

Our biggest indoor custom order came from Alderman French of the 21st ward, which is our neighboring ward to the north. The ward has purchased an old church building, and is in the process of turning it into a community center, that will also include offices and meeting spaces. Since it was a church, it was full of old oak pews. Alderman French asked us if we could turn the old pews into a conference table. Of course, we said yes.

The project took an exceptionally long time, as the Opportunity Center was very busy from Spring through Summer, and we made the table for free. When we finally got down to it, we discovered that the backs of the pews, which were nice and wide, were bent plywood, so they would not make good table tops. The seats, although upholstered, were solid oak. So we disassembled the pews, cut the seats to a width that would fit into our planer, and planed them down so they would be nice and flat. We ended up gluing five seats together, to make a 5 ft. by 8 ft. table top.

We originally thought we could use the carved oak ends of the pews for feet, but found it to be a huge problem logistically. So we ended up building a supporting frame out of the recycled pallet wood.

Attaching table tops to their frames is a delicate business, as wood swells and shrinks with changes in humidity. Furniture makers have discovered a variety of ways to compensate. We, however, were unaware of all that. So we got decorative bolts and bolted the table top onto the frame. It gave the table a slight industrial feel, which we felt worked, as it was all recycled material.

We stained the whole table a nice dark brown, and sealed it with polyurethane. The table top was exceptionally beautiful, as it was furniture grade oak. A lot of the wood from the pallets looks great, but to get free furniture grade lumber (although it cost some processing time) is a sustainable way to make more traditional looking furniture.

The Alderman loved his table, and we enjoyed the opportunity to make something unique and learn a bit as we did. This coming winter, we are going to try to develop more indoor products. If you have ideas of wood products that you think would be desirable made from recycled wood, and some price ranges, you can contact our executive director, Dr. Terry Goodwin, at, or leave a note on our Facebook page.