Household items to be repaired free of charge

 

Last updated 10/18/2022 at Noon

TIM PAGE

“Fixer” volunteer Greg Sheahan helps a patron get a household object back into working order. Sisters residents can bring items to the Repair Café on October 20 at the library.

Whether you bury it in the garage or send it to the landfill, chances are you’ve run into a broken household object recently. Many folks don’t know what else to do with it.

“We throw away vast amounts of stuff,” according to the international organization Repair Café. “Even things with almost nothing wrong, and which could get a new lease on life after a simple repair.”

Call a local repair shop and you may find it’s more affordable to buy a new gadget than get your old one fixed. An outfit in Redmond recently quoted rates beginning at $115/hour to look at a Chinese-made alarm clock purchased from Amazon for $16.

Noted the shop employee, “We can’t compete with the child slave labor over there on price.”

The situation perpetuates a model of environmental damage (shipping, packaging, and manufacturing a new clock) and wastes money (another $16 down the drain) in addition to promoting dubious labor practices overseas.

Enter the Repair Café. In this model, volunteers who know how to make things work again are brought together with everyday folks who have broken stuff. These generous volunteers are called “fixers.”

Bend-based nonprofit organization The Environmental Center sponsors Repair Cafés in Central Oregon. An event will be held in Sisters this Thursday evening at the library. Past fixers here have helped repair small appliances, jewelry, wood, fabrics, bikes, and more.

Mike De La Mater has been volunteering as a fixer since Bend’s first Repair Café. Now based in Prineville, he is “a firm believer that there’s enough stuff in the landfills.”

“So if I can put a cord on a vacuum cleaner, show somebody how to fix their own thing in the future, I can reduce that amount of waste,” he said. “It costs a lot of resources to make a new thing.”

Most of the fixers talk as they repair objects, according to De La Mater. “The guy that fixes jewelry, the one that sews, they talk,” he said. Through talking while they fix, these volunteers help Repair Café patrons learn to do their own repairs in the future.

“A lot of what I do is education,” he explained. “I talk the entire time I’m working on your thing. ‘Here’s where it’s broken. It broke because someone did this goofy thing to it. Let me show you how to prevent that.”

Fixers at Repair Cafés bring their own specialties to each event. “Mostly it’s been small appliances for me: toasters, lamps, vacuum cleaners, coffee pots,” said De La Mater. “People bring in family heirloom things that they would like to use.”

De La Mater is modest about his skills. “A lot of the things I do are not technical at all — they’re just like, putting the end on the cord,” he said.

“If you’ve never done it, it’s intimidating,” he admitted, “because it’s electrical and it’ll kill you. People are easily intimated.”

He cites putting a belt on a vacuum cleaner as something the average person could easily learn. “There are some things that are harder, like bicycle tune-ups and whatnot. But when the dog chews the cord off your favorite space heater—it’s really, really straightforward. You can fix it for yourself.”

For those of us who are easily intimidated, there’s the Repair Café. This week’s event is presented in partnership with Deschutes Public Library. It takes place at the Sisters branch (110 N. Cedar St.) on Thursday, October 20, from 5:30 to 7:30?p.m.

Attendees may bring one or two items for repair. Items may be repaired on the spot. Alternately, if a fixer determines that a visitor could do the repair at home themselves, they may give them instructions instead.

What types of items will be repaired? Organizers aren’t sure yet. Those wishing to make sure they bring the right kind of broken objects can check the following link before heading out to the library: https://envirocenter.org/tec-events/repair-cafe/.

The Repair Café is free and no RSVP is required. Questions can be directed to Udara Abeysekera Bickett, program manager of the Rethink Waste project at the Environmental Center. Email [email protected] or call 541-508-5439.

“We always hear such positive feedback after an event. People are so excited to keep their items in use, instead of throwing them away,” Abeysekera Bickett said.

There are over 2,200 local Repair Café groups worldwide. To learn more, see repaircafe.org. To learn more about The Environmental Center, see envirocenter.org.

 

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