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Repair Cafe

Our most recent Repair Cafe was a big success.  The following article was written by Karen Johnson RN., L.AC, who is the editor of Earth For All Ages, a weekly, intergenerational publication dedicated to attainable sustainability. For more information or to sign up, visit

Transition Howard County held a wonderful Repair Café at the Miller Library on Saturday, July 15, 2017. So what, actually, is a Repair Café? Turns out it is a local expression of an international movement, a vote for sustainability in a throwaway society and an old fashioned urge to repair combined with modern
social networking. “Customers” and “fixers” connect here to preserve items of personal interest, conserve money, share talents and skills, enjoy community, and know they will be able to use things for longer instead of just sending them off to a landfill.

When I first I approached the library I saw a little group huddled around a bicycle. When asked, they told me that Jim had just fixed a crooked valve-stem. The tire could now be pumped up properly and the bike would be put back into use.

Inside I met John who had just fixed a light for a happy customer. John revealed with a smile that he has enjoyed fixing things since he was a child gifting “fix it” cards to his family for Christmas. He still finds joy in using his talent, knowing he can save people money by fixing instead of buying new all of the time.

Mavis brought with her a treasured light that was given to her by a friend who had since passed on. It could not be repaired on site, but she received clear advice on what part she needed and where she could get it. She was pleased to know what to do!

Bruce, another volunteer who “always fiddled with mechanical things” found his way to here after meeting Margo (who was instrumental at many levels for the success of the café) at another event. She apparently explained the concept and it sounded like fun, so he signed on.

Charlie fixed a brass lamp and volunteered to consult on other pieces too large to bring to the café. He feels strongly about not wasting what can be repaired and is pleased to know he can fix something or share information that sends someone in the right direction.

One woman brought an unusual, brightly colored lamp purchased from the Smithsonian catalog and another woman watched as her daughter’s t-shirt got a new hem.

Gwyn, a seamstress learned about the event from a Facebook friend. As someone who likes to fix things, she contacted Margo to see if volunteers were needed. “Yes,” was the answer, so she came and brought along her own sewing machine. She had a nice little line of customers.

Penny, another seamstress, learned about the event back in February from a “fellow-fixer” in her woodworking guild. She looked up the Repair Café on line and found out she could volunteer. So she did, and brought her sister along as well. Both were busy helping with projects. Penny realized that people are not only interested in having things fixed, but learning how to fix things themselves. So she prepared a little lecture on how to sew on buttons, complete with little packages of supplies.

Then I found Joy, a self identified “fixer in general” staring intently through a magnifier at some jewelry, trying to evaluate the type of metal involved before recommending the proper repair. She had learned about the Café through a friend who saw it in the Transition Howard County newsletter.

As I moved through the room, talking with everyone, I listened to the pleasant, steady hum of conversation, observed people who didn’t know each other meeting over a common interest, watched customers wait line for their repairs or leave with, instead of bags full of new purchases, arms full of satisfaction and re-new-able items.

-Karen Johnson

Here are some pictures from the July event.

Below are pictures from our April Repair Cafe. NBC Nightly News recently had a wonderful segment on Repair Cafes.  More information on the international movement is here:

Subpages (2): Broken Items Volunteers