Founding Chapters: First Steps Toward Self Reliance

However strong the public's interest in self-reliance may have been, MOTHER EARTH NEWS' network of local chapters had to take their first steps at some point. Here are the stories of a few of them.

| March/April 1983

  • first steps - self reliance - illlustration of human figures collaborating to stack numbered blocks
    Although self-reliance entails providing for yourself as well as you can, the first steps in founding a MOTHER EARTH NEWS chapter has always taken collaborative effort.
    Illustration by Fotolia/AKS

  • first steps - self reliance - illlustration of human figures collaborating to stack numbered blocks

In Mother's Local Chapter Update, we told about some of the interesting projects in self-reliance our various chapters around the country have undertaken. Well, in response to that article, many people have asked us how those now well-established clubs got started. We thought you might like to hear about the first steps of a few representative groups.

Louisville, Kentucky. Edwin Mann, assorted MOTHER EARTH NEWS-readers, and others interested in seeking more self-reliant lifestyles got together with the Urban Alternatives Homestead of Louisville and set December 4, 1982 as the date for a meeting to discuss the formation of a chapter. More than 40 people showed up, and a lively exchange of ideas and information took place about barter boards, community gardening, and low-cost solar systems. Nearly everyone wanted to get started on building a greenhouse. And one participant — an experienced do-it-yourselfer — had even put together his own wood-gas truck! The crowd ranged from teenagers to senior citizens, but all had at least one desire in common: to do more with less and thus become increasingly self-sufficient.

Oakfield, Wisconsin. Last November, Hal Ayers — a MOTHER EARTH NEWS lifer —organized a meeting at the town's United Methodist Church. Nearly 50 people attended, some coming from as far as 100 miles away. After a friendly round of introductions, the task of forming a local chapter was discussed with enthusiasm. As the participants warmed up to one another, they shared suggestions and resources: One proposed a tour of his passive solar home, plus a presentation on solar energy. Another offered instructions on food canning and preservation. Dome house fans were delighted to learn that an attending family was living in one and had plans for add-on "baby" domes as well (a future chapter project, perhaps?). Experienced tipi builders and occupants added their observations. The group drew up a mailing list for a soon-to-be-created newsletter and discussed the establishment of a local barter board. Coffee, juice, and doughnuts — compliments of Hal's mother — were passed around, and a January follow-up meeting was scheduled.

Sanford, Florida. When Susan Glaese (secretary) and Noel Lucas (president) of Chapter No. 60 decided to have a small public meeting to increase their club's membership, they had no idea it would turn into a large-scale gathering! Seminole Community College in nearby Sanford agreed to let them use a meeting hall, and — last December 16 — the room was packed to overflowing with more than 100 people who showed up to trade ideas and find out more about this "MOTHER EARTH NEWS Chapters thing" they'd heard about on the radio.

Among the participants were a chimney sweep who was ready (now) to set up — you guessed it! — a barter board; a full-fledged massage therapist; an architect; an orchardist who raises citrus fruits without harmful chemicals (he thoughtfully provided some tasty samples of his produce); and two women who've given up on city life and are building their own home, board by board and bit by bit. As the potluck supper began, conversations revolved around organic gardening, wood-gas units, and recycling. Everyone had a grand time, Susan and Noel's chapter got more members, and plans were made for the formation of at least two new chapters! As a result of the meeting, Susan found herself on several radio programs (and liked the experience), met with several newspapers to clue them in on the activities, and wound up on local television to "talk chapters."

Fairport, New York. Fellows Road Park was the scene of a large meeting on December 3, when newlyweds John and Sandy Otto held a gathering to let the area residents know they wanted to start a chapter. The 100+ people who attended heard about do-it-yourself homebuilding (the discussion was led by an experienced "barn recycler"); starting a community wholistic garden (which prompted several people in attendance to offer their own back yards); building and using a low-cost solar heating system; and broommaking (featuring a hands-on demonstration by attendee Ruth Wingate). The local media were very receptive to the Ottos' efforts, too, and the next morning John appeared on television, his first time on the "other side of the tube." Even the TV program's hostess wanted to join the chapter; it seems she was having trouble weatherizing her house and needed some tips!

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