Steeped in the philosophy that we should all be better stewards of our planet’s resources and that creating zero waste is one of the best strategies for that objective, Repair Cafe delights in coupling handy folks with people like me who can barely operate a screwdriver. Broken items of all kinds are brought to a central location where talented neighbors fix fizzled lamps, fried toasters, torn trousers and battered electronics. And it is all free!
Somewhere back in 2012 a few local sustainable world fanatics borrowed the Repair Cafe structure from an international movement and had the grand opening at the Armory Center for the Arts. Since its founding, RC has appeared over 45 times, traveling to a dozen locations in our community to spread the joy and spirit of this great Block Party with a Purpose.
Along the way there were moments of introspection and analysis: Are we serving folks who we want to serve? Are we at the locations best suited for this work? Do we have the right craftspeople at the table? And are we not only fixing stuff but creating community?
There was certainly some discussion about where to house RC, with some wanting a consistent location and others pushing for moving it around town. Also, the notion of free repair has always been the focus of the group, but should folks be asked to contribute in other ways? And how is success measured when thinking about the outcomes of each event? By the number of toasters that can now hold down slices of bread or the level of conversation between the helpers and the helped?
Sometimes success isn’t numerically quantifiable. Sometimes it is more about how you feel because of human interaction and just being seen. And while RC serves a need to repair items that are broken, it also serves its volunteers (185 and counting!) through their yearning to do good and to help others.
Repair Cafe is a community living room/workshop: It provides folks who might not ever meet one another with the opportunity to sit, swap stories, try to fix a broken item together and share in an activity that recognizes each one as being valuable. For three to four hours, an alternative universe is created where money doesn’t really matter and people see each other not as transactions, but as neighbors and friends. And that, of course, is the best way to build a community that cares about the people who live there.
So maybe measuring success for Repair Cafe isn’t about the number of antique appliances saved from being thrown on the trash heap but more about transforming the world, one relationship at a time. As one volunteer calmly stated at the end of a recent Repair Cafe: “This is the world that I want to live in!”
Next Repair Cafe:
May 26, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
600 E Mariposa St
Altadena, CA 91001