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  • Writer's pictureThis Is Rutherford

Rutherford Green Team to Host Repair Cafe

By Jennifer Ersalesi

Photo credits: Brian Hanson-Harding and Rutherford Green Team Members

TIR: Two years ago the Green Team was able to organize a Repair Cafe at the Rutherford Congregational Church. Unfortunately, last year it was not possible to hold one due to pandemic restrictions. This May the Rutherford Green Team has found a way. Can you tell us more about this year’s upcoming Repair Cafe?

Brian Hanson-Harding: We will hold the event in Lincoln Park between 12-4 pm on Saturday 5/22 (rain date next day). There will be 9 or 10 separate tables, with one repair coach at each table. Tables will be spaced far apart. All participants will wear masks, and hand sanitizer and/or alcohol will be available at each station. Participants will have to first check in and then be directed to the appropriate station when it is available. There will be a Google form for people to sign up in advance so that we can avoid a lot of people coming at once. Here is the link for the Google form. We will initially make half-hour appointments, but if things go more quickly, we will let people go to a station as soon as it’s available. People can also walk in as well, and we will assign them an empty slot if available.

TIR: What happens at a Repair Cafe?

BHH: Repair coaches help people fix broken or non-functioning items. Ideally, the repair coach will simply tell the participant what to do, because the ultimate purpose is to train people to fix things and to fight against the “throwaway” mentality that has been drummed into us for years. In reality, the coach tends to do more of fixing him or herself, explaining to the participant how to make the repair. Also, the coach will more likely have the right tools, and in some cases, small parts. Participants are encouraged to bring in necessary parts if at all possible. Some coaches may charge for small parts to cover their costs, such as a bicycle tube or jewelry clasps. Under pandemic conditions, the coach and the participant will be at opposite ends of a folding six-foot table to maintain social distance.

TIR: What are the nine categories of items that individuals can bring to the Repair Cafe?

BHH: Actually, it’s at least nine. Bicycles, jewelry, clothing, furniture/picture frames/wooden items, small appliances, computers and electronics, lamps, small engines (lawnmowers and snowblowers), and sewing machines. We will probably have one or more blade-sharpening stations (the guy doing lawnmowers can sharpen blades, but we also have another person who can sharpen blades.) In some categories, we will have multiple tables because we have more than one person to repair wooden objects, electronics, and small appliances.

TIR: Who is invited to participate?

BHH: Local residents—not just people from Rutherford.

TIR: Who will be volunteering their time to assist at the Repair Cafe?

BHH: Right now we have thirteen people who will act as repair coaches, and we will also have other volunteers to help check people in, set up, and organize the day. We will also have a table where an artist will show kids how to turn trash into art. We may also have a book exchange as well. Normally, there is a “café” element offering coffee, tea, and baked goods, but we’re skipping that because of the pandemic.

TIR: Why do you think a Repair Cafe is so important, especially here in Rutherford?

BHH: Repair Café is an international movement started in Holland in 2009 that has spread all over the world. There are currently over 100 in the U.S. and at least five in New Jersey. The Repair Café philosophy is that we should value our objects and care for and repair for them rather than throw them out. It also values community: a repair café is a way to bring people together and engender human connections. Repair Cafés are about much more than fixing things: they’re about preserving objects that have meaning to us and creating a sense of community. Rutherford is just the kind of town where people want to help others out and be involved in the community, and it’s also a place where people value wonderful old things.

International Repair Café:

Rutherford Repair Café

We’re also on Instagram @rutherfordrepaircafe

This is a directory of US repair cafés:

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