It took a Townsend: A fond memory from 2020 | Local 20/20

Tracy Grisman
Posted 11/27/20

It’s hard to believe it has been nine months since I attended a community event of any kind, but just days before Gov. Jay Inslee declared a “Stay at Home, Stay Healthy” order due …

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It took a Townsend: A fond memory from 2020 | Local 20/20

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It’s hard to believe it has been nine months since I attended a community event of any kind, but just days before
Gov. Jay Inslee declared a “Stay at Home, Stay Healthy” order due to the deadly pandemic, what took place at the Jefferson County Community Center on Leap Year Day 2020 has become a fond memory to hold and to share. Port Townsend’s Repair Café debut was a testament to what can happen when inspiration, elbow grease and community alchemize.

What is a Repair Café? Basically, it’s an organized community event where people bring broken possessions to volunteer “fixers” who attempt to repair it for free or a donation. Martine Postma from the Netherlands developed the concept in 2009. Since that time, Repair Cafés and derivatives such as “Fix it Fairs” and “Tool Libraries” have sprouted up across the globe as part of the larger Repair Movement and Repair Economy.

The goals for a Repair Café are many:  

Keep things from going in the landfill and save precious resources. Did you know that the average American tosses approximately
2.5 pounds of trash per day? 

Do the math. We should all be out in our front yards screaming at the top of our lungs “STOP!”  

Give our possessions a second chance in life: See the value in the things we own and appreciate the resources and labor it took to make them.

Share knowledge on how to fix things. Repairing is becoming a lost art. Passing on this type of knowledge and skill is imperative. 

Relationships among community members are strengthened. Every repair tells a story: about the item, how someone acquired an item, how it broke, or how the repairer fixed a similar item. 

Besides these goals, fixing is fun! Do you have a curious, investigative mind?  Do you like to figure things out or want to know how things work? Kids seem to pick up on the fun of fixing too!  

It took a Townsend: Carefully planned and implemented by an enthusiastic committee, a plethora of competent fixers, gracious event volunteers and the help of generous sponsors, the Repair Café opened it’s doors to a total of 125 smiling people carrying broken lamps, loppers, vacuum cleaners, VCRs, and even a torn teddy bear. 

Two large rooms housed 20 repair stations including three sewing/mending stations, tool sharpening, two jewelry repair stations, a luthier, two bicycle fixers and 11-plus small electrical and mechanical stations. Upon registering, folks were led to an available station or a waiting area. 

If you had to wait, one could check out the reading resource table, partake in refreshment, engage in conversation, or fool around at the DIY table, all while being serenaded Port Townsend style by a local virtuoso.

At each station, determined fixers focused on projects while eager owners looked on in hopes that their item could be revived.  

A young adult brought in a small satchel that needed a new button to keep it closed. It was a delight to watch him choose an artsy replacement button from the expert’s private stash. Another woman was so happy that her cherished lamp would once again illuminate her home. 

If you missed out on the Repair Café, perhaps you will plan to attend, support, or volunteer for the next socially distanced or virtual event. (See repaircafeporttownsend.com).  

Events such as these would not be possible without an amazing team. Much gratitude goes out to the planning committee, expert fixers, and volunteers.  Big thanks to our sponsors: Beyond Waste of Local 20/20, The Food Co-op, and Henery’s Hardware.

(Tracy Grisman is an artist and community practitioner who lives with her husband in Port Townsend. She is an active member of Local 20/20 Steering Council and the Beyond Waste Action Group, as well as being the lead organizer for the Repair Café 2020.)

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