One of our main goals at Climate Summer is movement building. Worcester presented a huge challenge: as the second-largest city in New England, it is culturally, intellectually, and economically diverse. More than that, there is a growing environmental consciousness here, and it seemed that every corner we turned there was someone quietly doing amazing work.
Then we visited the Stone Soup Collective.
Our team was blown away by the sense of solidarity that exuded from the Stone Soup Collective. It is a coalition of groups from Worcester doing important work, some community-related, some environmental, but all sharing a sense of friendship. Members include Worcester Earn a Bike, which provides bicycles in exchange for volunteer time; YouthGROW, a community garden run by teenagers; Worcester Roots; Food Not Bombs; Worcester Immigrant Coalition; and many others. They banded together a few years ago to rent a house where they could all have offices. They used the space, explained Stone Soup organizer Judy, as a way to share resources, but also to provide the community a meeting space.
This was what we had been envisioning all along.
Just as they were raising money to purchase the space outright, there was a tragic fire that made the house unusable. Rather than accepting this setback, however, the Stone Soup stayed strong. Even scattered across the city, the cooperatives still maintain their ties. And they are working to rebuild the house in a way that is representative of their overall morals. We were lucky enough to be able to walk through the shell of the old house, and Judy pointed out where the new offices would be, a rooftop garden, residential spaces, even community gathering space. Even in the midst of construction, the classic lines of architecture shone through. We admired the antique woodwork, the high ceilings, the traditional arched doorways. It was clear that this building was magnificent.
Even more beautiful than the house itself, though, was the way in which it was being restored. Stone Soup is using the fairest labor practices possible to complete the project. Judy described utilizing both the local carpenters’ union as well as unskilled youths who gained experience in apprenticeships. She also mentioned having community groups like the Worcester Energy Barnraisers to help with weatherization and holding educational seminars during points of the construction process.
The community is literally rebuilding its own community center. It was amazingly beautiful and inspiring to see.