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Whitehorse's community-led jigsaw puzzle exchange celebrates 7 years of 1,000-piece puzzles

Roslyn Woodcock runs the puzzle exchange out of her backyard in Whitehorse. The puzzles, she said, are geared toward an adult level, and all pieces are kept in bags inside the boxes. (Asad Chishti/CBC News - image credit)
Roslyn Woodcock runs the puzzle exchange out of her backyard in Whitehorse. The puzzles, she said, are geared toward an adult level, and all pieces are kept in bags inside the boxes. (Asad Chishti/CBC News - image credit)

Roslyn Woodcock of Whitehorse has a shed in her yard that is filled with jigsaw puzzles, and community members are free to borrow them.

The Whitehorse Jigsaw Puzzle Exchange began as a project seven years ago, and has grown by word of mouth.

Puzzles of many themes are stocked high on the shelves and organized meticulously. It skyrocketed in popularity during the pandemic.

For Woodcock, the library reflects both a passion and a necessity.

"Once the winter hits, we've always got a puzzle on the table," she said, reflecting on her own love of the hobby.

The exchange has grown to about 500 members, and is mostly stocked with 1,000-piece puzzles.

"I'll grow old here … [or] older," she said with a chuckle. "I need a community because I don't have children. I need people who will be around and checking on me."

There are few rules for the puzzle library.

It used to be that when someone took a puzzle, they were expected to leave one in exchange. Now, however, the community is large enough that people are welcome to borrow puzzles to try them out and see if it is their cup of tea.

One of the many Whitehorse residents who makes use of the puzzle library is a six-year-old whose mom, Colleen Madore, says puzzling is his superpower.
One of the many Whitehorse residents who makes use of the puzzle library is a six-year-old whose mom, Colleen Madore, says puzzling is his superpower.

One of the many Whitehorse residents who makes use of the puzzle library is a 6-year-old whose mom, Colleen Madore, says puzzling is his superpower. (Asad Chishti/CBC News)

In fact, there are more hopes than rules, Woodcock said, explaining that she hopes members bring the puzzles back and that they arrive at reasonable hours. Mostly, she says, the guidelines are around puzzle etiquette that makes borrowing easier for everyone, such as putting all the puzzle pieces back into a bag inside the box.

"But honestly, we're talking about puzzlers. You don't need a lot of rules. These are people who thrive on this type of thing," Woodcock said.

Colleen Madore is a member of the puzzle exchange. While not an avid "puzzleworm" herself, her six-year-old is.

For Madore's child, who has special needs and is on the autism spectrum, the library has been an incredible gift.

Puzzling is her son's superpower, Madore said.

"We found out about this superpower when he was over visiting at a friend's house, and he was sitting at their dining room table for nearly two hours, and completed a 500-piece puzzle, which is then what led me on this journey of exploration."

For her son to be able to choose a puzzle from a catalog, pick  it up and bring it home, has provided independence, she said. Plus, she said, there are the feelings of self-fulfilment she sees in him as he puts together a puzzle.

The puzzle library doesn't change the world, Woodcock said, but it affects a lot of people in little ways, and shows the strength of community.

"Our communities are a lot stronger than we think they are. And so for me, it's just a nice little daily thing, that I don't have to be afraid of my neighbours or my community members," she said.