One problem that FCW had from the start is a lack of anyone with public relations experience. That, along with the location deep in an alley in an old cotton mill led to the phrase “I didn’t know anything like this was around here” being said numerous times (and still being said). One of the first things created was a trifold brochure that is still being used.
The local paper, The Granite Falls Journal (now Caldwell Journal), has been friendly to us and publishes items now and then — the only problem being that they have a small circulation. We have managed to get two articles in the Lenoir-News Topic, a larger paper in the county. One was an “introduction” article and the other an article about the GFMS eggbot workshop. One thing that has helped is a large sign placed on the first building of the complex in 2013.
FCW has been represented at several events. We had an exhibit at the 2013 and 2014 NC Makerfaire in Raleigh; the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Burlington Mini-Makerfaire; at the 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 Southeast Linuxfest in Charlotte; the 2015 and 2016 Barnes and Nobel mini-Makerfaire in Hickory; and Catawba Valley Pride at the Science Center in Hickory. Gene set up display at a local Lowe’s and gave a talk at a regional Model Railroad convention in Durhum. Colin and Michelle have given presentations to local clubs. The word is slowly getting out, but we have quite a ways to go.
We have good relationships with the local Amateur Radio Clubs. The Lenoir club meets at FCW now and then when they need to demonstrate something with the radios or electronics. The Western Piedmont club furnishes Volunteer Examiners for licensing exams at FCW three times per year, and FCW is a regular participant at the Catawba Valley Hamfest in Morganton.
Colin is our only member with professional experience with presentations so he and Michelle put together presentations for clubs. Colin has presented at two of the local Rotary clubs. Gene has represented FCW at several model railroad shows and Lowes display.
Rich and Michelle have been working with the local schools. Instructors from five of the local middle schools are planning to attend a workshop at FCW and we have a member from one of the local high schools. Michelle and Brandon have attended educational events and are working to create joint classes between FCW and the local schools.
From the start, we wanted FCW to be non-profit and file for a 501(c)(3) status. The initial corporation filing was set up as non-profit in NC and shortly after FCW was formed, Michelle, Dan, and Warren were a committee to complete the 501(c)(3) application. Money was raised and the application was filed with the IRS in May 2012. Then the wait began. Around August, we were expecting to hear back that we would have to submit changes. Rich called several times only to find out that our application was still in the queue. Finally, on April 1, 2013 we received a letter stating that we were approved for 501(c)(3) status with no changes. Because of the date and the long wait, at first we thought it to be a joke. But, it was real and FCW was officially a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. We have had two significant donations since then and several small ones but are now seeking out grants and sponsors.
FCW has participated in two Googlefests. Michelle was on the education panel at one Googlefest.
In 2017, FCW joined the Caldwell County Chamber of Commerce and is developing a relationship with local businesses.
A Look to the Future
Several FCW members were planning personal and group projects. At the space, work on another Fright night was underway. There was planning for Open Houses. A lan party, a movie night, and a regular game night were also being planned. A regular “vintage computer” night was planned. Planned classes included various microcontrollers, Python, Networking, Ham Radio, Machining, Basic Woodworking, CAD, Digital Electronics, models, mask making, basic computers and Electronics. A group build of 3D printers was being organized, and there was work on a group solar panel build and an antenna party. A commercial 3D printer and a scanning electron microscope were being restored. Expanding interests included alternate energy, chemistry, biology, casting, glass blowing, jewelry, and pottery. Grandrant and donation possibilities were being explored and there was hope to do joint projects with other local organizations and other hackerspaces.
Things were going good, membership increasing, ongoing outreach, classes and fun activities. But……. such was not to be.
Next: Disaster Strikes