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Repair and salvage is the mantra behind this unique Orillia event

Repair Café links volunteers with people in need of specific skills and talents; 'This is a way to bring in the whole community'
2018-10-20 RepairCafe.jpg
Matt Thomson, a local wood worker and furniture maker, fixed up some chairs at the Repair Café that took place Saturday at St. James’ Anglican Church. Mehreen Shahid/OrilliaMatters

In with old and broken and out with the repaired and salvaged.

That was the theme of the day at Saturday's Repair Café where numerous items had been fixed up in the first couple hours, ensuring those items wouldn’t end up in landfill. That meant 15.5 pounds of waste had been diverted. Last year, the event managed to divert more than 40 pounds .

“I brought in my winter jacket, which has had a rip in for one or two winters,” said Tanya Clark. “I’ve attempted to have it fixed, but not with a lot of success.”

The Orillia resident was planning on taking the jacket to a shop to be fixed, when she found out about the repair café, and decided to give it a shot.

“It’s nice to be able to connect to people who can do this,” she said of the Repair Café, which is in its second year at St. James’ Anglican Church. “It’s good to find out about people in the community who have these skills.”

The café was initiated by Lake Country Time Trade (LCTT), in collaboration with Lakehead University students. This year, Information Orillia took over the event, with support from LCTT

“In my position, I’m required to implement seniors programs that encourage safety, wellness and community,” said Karissa Barker, a staffer at Information Orillia.

“We’ve run other programs, like fire safety, tech assistance and driver’s license renewal programs,” she said. “This is a way to bring in the whole community, maybe see an intergenerational aspect to it, too.”

The event saw a steady stream of residents bringing in items from furniture, jackets, sweaters, toques, to camping gear.

Jim Lemke, one of the 19 volunteers giving their time to help out between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., was working on fixing up two DVD players.

“It’s got a push button that isn’t working, so I’m going to take it apart and see if we can get it going,” he said of one of the consoles he was working on.

Some things can be fixed on the spot, whereas bigger tools might be needed for others, said the Orillia resident. Those were tools he didn’t feel comfortable bringing to an environment where safety of kids would be of concern.

Nevertheless, said Lemke, he thoroughly enjoyed trying to fix the players.

“It’s kind of fun and social,” he said. “I have electronic and computer skills that a lot of people don’t have. If I can help fix something, that’s good.”

The sense of community was also an important factor for volunteer Cassandra Witteman.

She was also trying her best to educate people that they can salvage an item from being doomed.

“This gets them thinking,” said the Orillia resident, who says she tries her best to recycle items instead of throwing them away. “I feel like a lot of people don’t think things can be fixed, easily at times.”

Coming from a family that is skilled in crafts, such as wood working and silversmithing and sewing, which is Witteman’s forte, she says she’s always trying to find ways of saving items.

“We never throw away anything that can be fixed,” she said.

Annalise Stenekes, co-founder of LCTT, said she had looked through unused items in her house and brought some to the repair café.

“I can’t give away items that are broken, so I thought I would bring them here to see if they can be fixed,” she said.

These are skills commonly found among those on the LCTT roster, said Stenekes.

People mostly look to get involved in tangible projects, such as creating a garden, or learning new skills, such as playing a musical instrument, she said.

But Stenekes said she wants to see people taking more interest in the repair café, however it seems difficult to get people out to the event.

Clark had some ideas.

“If you show others examples of things that have been fixed, it could help bring out more people,” she said. “Maybe even having a list of what kinds of items can be fixed, so we know what to bring.”

Even feedback from those who do attend can help for the next event, she suggested.

Comments from attendees were what had driven them to bring in more than one seamstress, said Stenekes, who noted last year there was a lineup in front of the one volunteer with a sewing machine.

For more information on LCTT, click here

Mehreen Shahid

About the Author: Mehreen Shahid

Mehreen Shahid covers municipal issues in Cambridge
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