A cobbler’s tale

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Jim Daubenspeck, above, closed his shoe repair shop in Laconia for a few weeks to spend time teaching a woman in St. Lucia how to use a special sewing machine for her business there. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun) Right, Elton, one of the workers at Shoe Rehab in Saint Lucia, displays a pair of repaired shoes. (Courtesy photo)


Laconia’s ‘Daub’ sent an old sewing machine to St. Lucia, sparking a friendship and business venture


LACONIA — Jim Daubenspeck purchased LaBelle's Shoe Repair in Laconia, which is now Daub's Cobbler Shop, because he wanted to help people and be part of a community. The move wove him into the fabric of downtown Laconia and also into the worldwide cobbler community. That was how he found himself in the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia this winter, leading several days of workshops for a woman who is bringing professional shoe repair to a place where the service is much needed.

"It all started with an old, black Singer," Daubenspeck said, chuckling. About a year ago, Daubenspeck noticed a request for a used patching machine on a Facebook group, Shoe Repair International. Daubenspeck happened to have a 1989 Singer that he wasn't using, so he contacted Mandisa Morrison, the person behind the post, and negotiated a fair deal to ship it to her shop in Saint Lucia, an eastern Caribbean island nation.

Daubenspeck, a U.S. Navy veteran, wanted to be sure that Morrison was satisfied with the machine, so he remained in contact in case she should have any trouble with it. 

"We struck upon an immediate friendship," he said, and over the months Morrison asked him for advice about all things related to shoe repair. Daubenspeck came to be impressed by Morrison, who saw a need for professional cobbler services in a place where many people commute on foot and where the only other place to get a shoe repaired was by someone on a street corner who would mend a sole with a piece of old tire. Morrison brought the idea into reality four years ago. She has since opened a second Shoe Rehab location and has further plans for expansion.

So, when she secured an economic development grant to bring an expert in cobbling to Saint Lucia for a workshop, Daubenspeck was happy to accept the invitation.

"I got to be that guy," he said.

It wasn't a Caribbean vacation, though. Daubenspeck spent at least 10 hours of each day training Mandisa's staff, then worked with Mandisa after hours to refine her business plan and develop personnel policies. He received a modest stipend for his time, but he gained more from the experience than dollars.

"I was so refreshed, so motivated and inspired by these young people – just the enthusiasm they brought to every day life," he said. "It's now time to be looking for this next generation. How do we do that? Opportunities like this arise, it got my blood flowing again."

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“Dutch,” working at the Singer patching machine that started the entire journey for Jim Daubenspeck. (Courtesy photo)

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Daubenspeck stands with Mandisa Morrison in front of Shoe Rehab in the Gablewoods Mall in St. Lucia. (Courtesy photo)

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The machine that started the journey. (Courtesy photo)

City reaches agreement with administrative, tech workers


LACONIA — The 35 members of the Laconia Administrative and Technical Employees bargaining unit will get a 1 percent pay increase on July 3, and another 1 percent hike on Jan. 1 under a contract approved Monday by the City Council.

City Manager Scott Myers said the cost-of-living hikes are in line with the consumer price index increase the city used in calculating its budget.

Employees in the unit are working under a contract that ends June 30.

Under the one-year agreement approved Monday, the co-pay for a doctor's office visit will increase from $20 to $25. The cost-of-living pay increase will cost the city $20,153.

Myers said this is one of four groups that participate in collective bargaining with the city.

The group includes administrators or technicians in Public Works, Parks and Recreation, Finance, Planning and other departments.

Another group represents other Public Works Department employees. Other bargaining groups represent police and firefighters.


Gilmanton middle schoolers excel at DI regionals

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Gilmanton School's "Spaghetti and the Meatballs" Destination Imagination middle school team included (from left, front row) Natalie Clay, Hale Kutuk, Jaime Waldron and Brady Gardner and (back row) Fawn Kutuk and Judy Wilson. (Courtesy photo)


GILMANTON — The Gilmanton Middle School team in Destination Imagination won their division despite one striking distinction — only one member of the team is an actual middle schooler.
"The others are fourth- and fifth-graders, who are competing with individuals older than they are," explained Judy Wilson, Destination Imagination coordinator for Gilmanton School. "Teams have to compete at the level of their oldest team member."
Hale Kutuk is the seventh-grader and the oldest member. She and teammates excelled at regionals, winning in the middle school division.
"Spaghetti & the Meatballs" includes team members Brady Gardner, Zavien Whitmore, Natalie Clay, Jaime Waldron, Patrick Hamel and Kutuk. Hamel was a team member but he was unable to participate in the Goffstown meet and will not be able to compete at the upcoming state tournament, due to scheduling conflicts, Wilson said.
Team managers are Wilson and Fawn Kutuk.
The team placed first for Show and Tech for Middle School level at the Goffstown Regional DI tournament on March 19. They now advance to the state tournament in Bedford on Saturday, April 1.
"Their team challenge was Show and Tech, where they had to design and build a stage where an Opening Act and Headlining Act would take place," Wilson reported. The stage by rule also had to move a team member, and the challenge also required the inclusion of a "tech effect" in both acts.
Their opening act simulated a television commercial, which stars team member Hale Kutuk, transforming herself into "Lady Gugu." She hails the benefits of their new "Super Sauce Pan," which requires no heat to cook food. For the tech effect, Kutuk uses a team-built catapult to launch the super sauce pan onto a nearby counter.
"Lady Gugu is heavily made up, wears a team-made duct tape dress and accessories, and speaks dramatically and persuasively about the Super Sauce Pan," Wilson reported.
"Now back to your program" signals the start of the headlining act TV show, "Vs. Super Sauce," Wilson said, "where two chefs are competing for bragging rights." Natalie Clay, reigning champion "Chef Super Sauce," goes head to head with rookie Brady Gardner, "Chef Billy Bob," "as they both work feverishly to concoct the best spaghetti and meatball dish ever," Wilson reported.
Two judges, Zavien Whitmore playing "Sir Slides Alot" and Jamie Waldron, playing "Panica Datrick," preside over the cooking competition. "Sir Slides Alot" slides in on the team-designed and constructed "sladder" — a combination slide and ladder, the part of the stage that moves a team member. The team used a found metal frame dolly with a steering wheel attached as the prop for the "Datrick" character, with mock logos.
"The winner of the spaghetti and meatball cooking competition is announced and wins $2, the 'Chef Super Sauce' cape and bragging rights," Wilson noted.
Team managers were impressed with how well the individuals on the team learned how to work as a cooperative group, Wilson noted. They all gained a number of new skills: "construction, using a saw, a power drill, measure twice, cut once, using a glue gun, spray paint, sewing, fashion design with duct tape, and welding." As the teams said, they had to "design, build, cut, weld and 'prop' their way to victory," she reported.
Even ancient history came into play. The motivation behind their "sladder" was their research into how ancient Sumerians used logs to move heavy objects, Wilson reported.
Two of the team meetings were capped off by a team dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, each one made by one of the team managers, Wilson reported.
Destination Imagination is a national academic challenge that emphasizes creativity and curiosity.
The school's two teams, one at the elementary level, "The Fantastic Five," and the second at the middle school level, won in their categories at regional competition in Goffstown on Sunday, March 19. They will advance to a state tournament in Bedford on Saturday, April 1.
A third team from Gilmanton School, for kindergarten through second grade, also competed at regionals, which featured 91 teams and more than 650 students.
For 18 years, the Destination Imagination program — formerly known as Odyssey of the Mind — has challenged students to showcase their technical and creative skills.
In the New Hampshire Destination Imagination competition, Lakes Region teams to advance to state included Gilmanton School's elementary team, The Fantastic Five, and the middle school team, Spaghetti and the Meatballs; Laconia Middle School, Project EXTRA; Moultonborough Central School, Big Brain Boys and Acting Genius; and Shaker Regional, Omega. For full results of regionals, visit http://tinyurl.com/kjg59vb.