Repair Café organizers pleased with inaugural event’s success

Morris Bodnarchuk entertains Repair Café volunteers with some fiddle playing after getting his pickup microphone fixed. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Morris Bodnarchuk’s pickup for his fiddle was acting up. It was cutting in and out, which made it difficult to perform. He took it into a shop, and they cleaned the end that connects to the amplifier.

It still didn’t work.

So Bodnarchuk took the fiddle and electric pickup to the first ever Repair Café held at the Margo Fournier Centre Saturday, and in a few short minutes, a volunteer identified a short in the wiring. A few minutes later, the pickup was fixed, and Bodnarchuk was putting on an impromptu concert for everyone at the Fourier Centre gym.

“I’m just elated,” Bodnarchuk said. “I’m so excited. It had given me no end of trouble.” He encouraged others to try to get their things fixed before throwing them away.

That’s the attitude organizers of the volunteer-led Repair Café are trying to instil into the people of Prince Albert. Saturday’s event was a success, and something to build on, as a steady stream of people flowed in to either get something fixed or see what the repair café was all about.

“We want to reduce the number of throwaway items that go to the landfill. The other reason is to encourage community support for fixing things and repairing items that are repairable,” said Lillis Lawrence, one of the volunteers and an organizer.

“It’s very encouraging to know that we have a huge amount of support, and that there’s more people that are spreading the word about the repair café.”

Lillis was manning the sewing station Saturday, reattaching a zipper that had come off an article of clothing. Her husband, Steve Lawrence, was at the glue and simple repairs station, working with a knife sharpener and a porcelain bowl. Like Lillis, Steve knows the value of fixing things around the home.

Steve Lawrence works on a knife sharpener at Prince Albert’s first ever Repair Café. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

“It’s something I’ve always done, and over the year, I’ve probably saved thousands of dollars just from not replacing stuff,” he said.

“(We need to get into) the idea that a lot of thing, if you just take them apart and take a look, you might be able to fix.”

In addition to sewing and simple repairs, there was stations set up for furniture and electronics. Six volunteers worked throughout the afternoon, fixing head massagers, record turntables, appliances and other odds and ends.

Rene Blom was working at the electronics station. He had some luck earlier in the day, but was battling with a heat gun that had wires uncoiled.

Rene Blom works on a heat gun during Prince Albert’s first Repair Café Saturday at the Margo Fournier Centre. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

“It’s a challenge,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a lot of fun to fix something and make it work again. I always try. I’m not always successful, but I always try to see why things aren’t working. Sometimes you’re lucky, and sometimes you’re not.”

The day wasn’t without its hitches – it became clear broken electronics were one of the most popular items, and there weren’t enough volunteers with that skillset, though the ones who were there did their best.

The first event gave organizers a sense of what they should expect next month when they hold the event again.

Another issue that arose was the misconception that it’s a drop-off service. It’s a drop-in, but not a drop-off.

“People have to stay with their items,” Lillis said.

“It’s a sharing of knowledge that we’re encouraged, so that people feel more empowered to actually look at items and consider if they can be fixed. Also, it’s to understand that fixing things takes time. You can’t just walk in and in an instant it’s done.”

Steve said showing people how to take things apart and put them back together also teaches people what good craftsmanship looks like. Maybe, he said, this an lead to better purchasing decisions of objects that won’t break as easily.

Steve, Lillis and the other volunteers are looking forward to April 7 when the second monthly event will be held. They’re also looking for more volunteers to help out with the repairs. That event will have a bicycle repair station, and is scheduled for 1-4 p.m. at the Margo Fournier Centre gym.

To volunteer, email or contact them on Facebook at Repair Café Prince Albert.