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Don’t Toss It, Learn How to Fix It …Sept. 16, 2015

WRepaircafelogoBy Nancy Arsenault
We all have them – in the basement, garage and attic – broken or unusable items that have collected over the years, waiting for that day sometime in the future when we might have the time or the skills, to bring them back to life.

The Stow Council on Aging, in partnership with the Rotary Club of Nashoba Valley,  is bringing that day to Stow this Saturday. Stow’s first ever Repair Café will take place Sept. 19, 9:00am – 1:00pm at the Union Church on Great Road.

What is a Repair Café? It is part of the movement to reduce, recycle and reuse before throwing out or buying new. That includes repairing items to extend their usable life, keeping items out of landfills longer. The Repair Café concept started in Amsterdam and has now spread worldwide.

Sharon Funkhouser of the Stow COA said some of her members suggested the idea to host a Repair Café after a community group held several successful sessions in neighboring Bolton. “People can bring whatever it is that is sitting around their house that they would like to get fixed or repaired, and we will have people there to do it,” she said. There is no charge to the “customer,” just a willingness on their part to try to pick up a few “fixing” skills of their own during their repair session.

How many times has someone hired a handyman or taken something to a shop for repair, only to find that it just needed an easy adjustment or a few quick turns of a screwdriver? The experts at the Repair Café are residents of Stow and neighboring towns who have gathered a lifetime of “Fix-It” skills that they are eager to apply to needy items and to pass along to new learners. The idea is to empower people to tackle their own repairs and maybe pass some skills along to family members at the same time, said Funkhouser.

The group is expecting everything from lawnmowers and small power tools, to bicycles, lamps, toasters, electronics, toys, furniture, small appliances and clothing that may need mending. “Really, anything that might need some attention and shouldn’t be thrown away,” said Funkhouser. While it is often easier to just replace something with a newly purchased item, Funkhouser said, we create mountains of waste with that mode of thinking, as well as spend more money than we should.

The handymen and repair people on hand will all come with their own tools and their collective expertise, said Funkhouser. “It would be great if people stayed around for a few minutes to see how easy it is to repair their item, and maybe they can pick up a few tips from the people doing the work,” said Funkhouser.

“The Repair Café is also meant to put neighbors in touch with each other in a new way, discovering that a lot of know-how and practical skills can be found close to home.  If you repair a bike or sharpen a blade together with a previously unfamiliar neighbor, you look at that person in a different light the next time you run into them on the street,” she said.

The Repair Café Foundation, based in the Netherlands, has been organizing gatherings since 2010. Now the Foundation provides support to local groups in and outside the Netherlands wishing to start their own Repair Café. The Repair Café in Bolton is a recipient of support from the Foundation.

“We hope everyone will take a look around and pick up those items they have been hoping to get fixed, somewhere, somehow, and bring them to the Repair Café on Saturday,” said Funkhouser.