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Buffalo Barn Raisers: “People Who Do Stuff”

Most of the time, when we want to learn a new skill or get something done around the house, we have to pay for it.  We’ll hire a professional or take a class to learn how to do it ourselves.  But what if you had a network of friends who could teach you these skills or help you get that work done for free?
This is the whole concept behind the Buffalo Barn Raisers. “People who do stuff.” Whether its learning a language, fixing up a house, or simply hosting a dinner or fun activity to meet new people, the Barn Raisers are on it.
The idea began last December with Brigidann Rauch, who lived at the Plankton House of Nickel City Co-op.  Rauch wanted to form a group called the Buffalo Cooperative Council.  The intention was to create an opportunity for people to reach out to one another in order to share skills, exchange labor and build “a network of resources and community.”  She spread the news around to different houses and held a meeting with a handful of people.
The organizers decided to distill the concept down to a calendar of events that could be hosted in people’s homes or at local businesses, for free or supported by donation.  The premise was simple: if you have a skill you want to share or want to learn something new, you sign up.
“It’s kind of a play on the Amish term ‘barn-raising’, where the community would come together to put up a new barn or rebuild after a fire,” said Victoria Kuper, one of the group’s organizers.  “That many hands make light work.”
On average, about 15 different people have hosted events this year, and far more have participated in them.  Some of them are learning-based events, such as workshops.  Others are just fun get-togethers for networking.  The possibilities are endless, from potluck dinners, to evenings dedicated to learning how to knit, speak Spanish, bake bread, salsa dance, do yoga, or even home-brewing.
“We’re in the process of learning things together,” said Kuper.  She gave the example of the recent Circus Skill Share she had hosted, where people came to learn the different aspects of circus performance, such as juggling and acrobatics. The idea wasn’t necessarily to have an expert at the helm.  Rather, one person who had more advanced skills was there to teach the beginners and share an entertaining experience. “It was this great opportunity to relate to people in a different way,” Kuper said.
“One of my goals with this calendar is to get people to understand that they can do anything,” said Carrie Nadar, another event organizer.  Nadar came up with the idea of “the broken house club,” where the old concept of barn raising really came into play. Nadar selected 12 different structures that were in need of a little help, and each one would get two days of work per year.  Last month, it was her own home that got some attention.
Thirty people showed up and completely gutted the entire house, putting in 115 hours worth of work collectively.  “It was awesome,” Nadar said.  “I picked up a hammer for 30 seconds the whole time.” Instead of taking on the massive project herself, she was able to spend her time running around delegating tasks to a massive group of eager hands, and the outcome was amazing. “It’s that easy,” Nadar said.  “It’s making phone calls and writing something on a piece of paper.  It’s ridiculously simple and easy to do.”
Kuper and Nadar hope that this concept will continue to grow, and possibly spread throughout the greater Buffalo community.  “I feel that these events have become a natural source of creativity,” Kuper said.  “I’ve watched that creativity spill over and it’s contagious.  It improves the quality of our relationships with each other and the community.  We’re socializing purely for the sake of growing as a group.”
The Buffalo Barn Raisers hold a monthly meeting to organize the next month’s calendar, where anyone is welcome to attend and share their ideas. This month’s meeting is on February 20 at 8:30 p.m. at 208 North Street.  Anyone who can’t make the meeting and is interested in attending an event, hosting an event, or simply learning more about the group can email

Written by Sarah Maurer

Sarah Maurer

I moved to Buffalo to attend Canisius College in 2007 and began writing for Buffalo Rising as a journalism intern in 2010. Working with Newell and meeting numerous entrepreneurs, activists and everyday folks who were working to make their city better made a huge impact on my decision to stay here. After witnessing all the positive development and grassroots initiatives happening in neighborhoods throughout the city, I was inspired to pursue a term of service in AmeriCorps and a career in Buffalo's non-profit sector. I currently work in the housing department at the Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center of WNY and am excited to be a part of their ongoing efforts to revitalize the Broadway Fillmore neighborhood. I also volunteer as the project coordinator for Artfarms Buffalo. I continue to write for Buffalo Rising because I love having the opportunity to stay connected to those working toward positive changes for the Queen City.

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