HUMBOLDT PARK — A woman-led collective is starting a series of classes designed to teach people essential life skills.
DIY GRRL is run by Summer Lambert, a Humboldt Park resident who sees the project as a way to fill in the gaps for women — and others — who want to learn how to change a tire, fix something around the house and more. Lambert hopes the classes will also serve as a place to gather with friends and neighbors.
The project’s origins date back to when Lambert moved to Chicago in March 2020. She was feeling socially isolated, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down local businesses and public spaces.
Lambert started frequenting local businesses along California Avenue and around Humboldt Park, and got to know business owners and residents.
“I had been trying to find my place in Chicago and find where I fit in and where I can be a part of my community. I was trying to find a way of creating a collective of sorts, a group of people who do well for the community, who give back to the community,” Lambert said.
Around the same time, Lambert became a homeowner and realized she kept hiring men to do jobs around her house — tasks she wondered why she had never learned how to do herself.
“It made me really think back on the fact that when I was growing up as a young girl, you’re not taught very essential skills for being independent,” Lambert said.
Over the past few months, Lambert started to think about how the two things could come together: giving back to the community and teaching people such skills.
“I came to this realization of, ‘Why don’t we … know how to do these things?’” she said. “Really tapping into my community that I have here in Chicago that I’ve been building, I know professionals who know how to do these things that I want to do and I realized there’s an opportunity here.”
This month, Lambert launched DIY GRRL, which will partner with local businesses to hold classes and workshops throughout the city.
The first of those will be Garcia’s Auto Parts, 1211 N. California Ave., in Humboldt Park.
Lambert said she met owner Miguel Garcia, whose family has operated the auto shop since 1975, when she started bringing her car in to the shop.
Now, Lambert and Garcia are co-hosting DIY GRRL’s first class together May 15. Participants will learn how to change a spare tire.
Garcia said it was something he’s wanted to do for a long time, and he jumped at the chance when Lambert approached him.
“I have voiced a need for wanting to teach people the basics of owning a vehicle. Just because everyone that comes in, isn’t really educated enough on their vehicle. [Lambert] said, ‘Let’s come up with an event where we can teach people your basic stuff’ … and that’s how it came about,” Garcia said.
Lambert and Garcia are holding a raffle on Instagram ahead of the class. Ten winners will bring in their cars and receive free, hands-on training. Spots for spectators will also be available.
Garcia and Lambert said they’ve gotten a big response so far to their first class, and not just from women.
“I was starting it to be really focused on like, by women for women. And you know, quickly we’re hearing from guys and nonbinary people and trans men,” Lambert said. All are welcome, she added.
Lambert’s day job is in marketing, and she sees part of DIY GRRL’s mission as helping the businesses she partners with expand their profile.
“This is a really great way to also highlight local businesses and give them marketing opportunities,” Lambert said. “I’m reaching out to them, I want them to feel empowered, to feel like this is a really great opportunity to get their name out as a business.”
Lambert is talking to a bike shop, a welder and other businesses across Chicago about holding classes later this year. She also plans to continue partnering with Garcia for more auto repair classes.
“I’m hoping that not only is it an education opportunity, but it’s a really good way of just meeting up with people and getting to know them. It could be like your monthly meetup spot with your friends. It’s like the new farmers market, but you’re learning a skill,” she said.
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