By Janna Gingras
For The Beachcomber
Islanders came away from the 12th Vashon Fix-It Cafe last weekend with smiles, stories and new lives for old possessions.
Majorly sponsored by Vashon Makerspace, the nonprofit known best for the Tool Library, and hosted by the Vashon Eagles, the latest Fix-It Cafe was a hybrid of in-person and online fixing, keeping islanders safe with creative COVID mitigation protocols. Other supporting partners in bringing this event to the island included Zero Waste Vashon, O Space, the Vashon Time Exchange, and the King County Eco-Consumer Program.
Twenty volunteers spent the day fixing more than 100 items that were broken or malfunctioning or sometimes merely presented a how-to-use dilemma for the 80 islanders who brought them in. People registered ahead online and received an appointed time to bring in their items, thus eliminating lines and minimizing personal contact.
About eight fixing stations were set up outdoors at the Eagles, while another four stations appeared in the corners of a large room inside the building. Everything from hair clippers to microwave ovens came through. There were numerous lamps and vacuum cleaners. There were CD players, a food dehydrator, an electric fireplace and an electric scooter. Various items of clothing needed patches and hems. More than one item had a power reset button that had been previously unknown to the owner.
Items were left and picked up later, unfortunately denying folks the fun and education of watching it being fixed, but a necessary part of the COVID mitigation strategy. Most items were fixed, some were sent home with advice regarding a needed part, and a few people reluctantly took home a beloved item they now knew to be unfixable.
A fix-it-yourself-at-home option was also available with a fixer on Zoom, giving instructions to enterprising people at home who learned what they needed to repair their own items. These Zoom sessions helped repair, among other items, a cement garden bench. On Zoom, a fixer also provided advice for operating a heavy recliner.
In the end, total fixes were reported on 55 items, resulting in 502 pounds of material being diverted from the landfill. Helpful advice such as “needs a new battery” and “knows what part to buy” was reported on 26 items, resulting in another potential diversion of 434 pounds.
People bringing in items were asked to be masked and vaccinated, but when two boys, much too young for vaccinations, and without the necessary proprietary tools at home, came in with a broken motor from a lego set and a remote control car that wasn’t working, exceptions were made. A special table appeared in a far corner and the boys were given tools and instruction and they happily worked on both items themselves.
Organizers who coordinated the event and developed the drop-off and pick-up procedures were pleased with the overall turnout.
They regretted the loss of face-to-face interactions and the barrier that the online registration may have posed for some potential participants. But they were proud of the collegiality and enthusiasm of the fixers, several of whom actually took items home when time ran out. They look forward to another event in the spring.
In the meantime, fans of repair cafes can access many resources at vashonfixit.com.