‘Fixers’ to fill firehouse at repair cafe | Columbia County

NEW LEBANON — Need a new part for a toaster? Stitch a tear in a sleeve? Want a lamp to shine again?

Have no fear. A repair cafe is coming to Columbia County later this month.

The repair cafe is a community event where people can bring their broken items and have them fixed by volunteers for free.

“It’s not only bringing people from the community out to help others, it’s meant to divert stuff from going into landfills as well as a way for us to maybe get something fixed that we don’t know how to fix,” said repair cafe press contact and Austerlitz Climate Smart Committee member Cara Humphrey.

This summer, Climate Smart Communities of New Lebanon, Chatham, Canaan, Austerlitz and East Nassau have been collaborating to bring a repair cafe to the region. The Repair Cafe will be held Oct. 23 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the New Lebanon Fire House at 523 Route 20 in New Lebanon.

Repair cafes have taken place all over the United States, Humphrey said. She said they have been around the Hudson Valley since 2014. In New York, repair cafes are a part of the Climate Smart Community program. Humphrey said one way a town can earn points toward a Climate Smart designation is hosting two repair cafes in a 12-month period.

The volunteer fixers for the upcoming repair cafe are skilled in sewing, darning, carpentry work, basic electrical repairs, bikes, computer software, shoes, jewelry, ceramics and leather goods.

“Since it’s a big endeavor to host one of these, and have it be successful, especially when you’re not experienced repair cafe event hosters, we collaborated with a group of towns,” Humphrey said. “Each of our towns participating have a Climate Smart Community, and we’re all busy doing things like repair cafes or solar campaigns or recycling programs, so it’s pretty cool that we all came together and were able to hopefully pull one of these off, fingers crossed.”

COVID protocols will be observed at the repair cafe, Humphrey said. She said some of the repair tables will be outdoors.

“We have some really interesting folks coming that are not just fixers, but can give advice on how to look at shopping for HVAC systems, advice on some things to do with child care, personal care.”

The repair cafe is expected to have about 30 volunteers, Humphrey said. There are about 15 “fixers.” Most of the fixers have materials and tools they use. The cafe is also going to have a “runner” who will be able go to the local hardware store if they need some additional inexpensive supplies.

“We will have an inventory of basic supplies,” Humphrey said. “So if you bring your old broken lamp in, there’s probably going to be an electrician there who can either identify what’s wrong with it if he or she can’t fix it right there on the spot, and if we need an inexpensive material we’ve got a guy that can run across the street to the hardware store.”

“The idea is that with the persons that’s brought in their beloved broken whatever, lamp, frame, you-name-it, maybe they need a little jewelry repair we’ll have jewelry repair,” Humphrey said. “We’re trying to get a knife sharpener, we all have knives that could be sharpened. And we encourage the fixer to teach along the way.”

The repair cafe idea was started by Martine Postma. According to the Repair Cafe website, since 2007, she has been working toward sustainability at a local level in many ways.

Postma organized the first repair cafe in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on Oct. 18, 2009. It’s success prompted her to start the Repair Cafe Foundation. Since 2011, the nonprofit organization has provided professional support to local groups in the Netherlands and other countries wishing to start their own repair cafe. According to the site, there are more than 1,500 repair cafes worldwide.

The first repair cafe in New York state was held in 2013 in New Paltz, Humphrey said. Today, there are more than 30 in the Hudson Valley and upstate New York

For more information, or to volunteer to repair or to help with the project: Adelia Moore ([email protected]) New Lebanon, Wendy Dwyer ([email protected]) Canaan, Cara Humphrey ([email protected]) Austerlitz.

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