Northwest Philly’s Repair Cafe encourages people to think twice before trashing broken items

Despite its name, Repair Café is not a coffee shop.

It’s an international organization that helps community leaders sponsor free events to fix people’s broken knick-knacks — from lamps to lawn mowers, from clothes to electronics — with the ultimate mission to reduce waste. In Northwest Philly, it was sponsored in Chestnut Hill in September 2014, the second Repair Café on May 17 will be hosted in Germantown at 5572 Greene St.

Repair Café, was founded in the Netherlands in 2009 and has since expanded worldwide. In 2014, volunteers from Time4Time Community Exchange, a group serving the Northwest Philadelphia region, held a Repair Café to support their community and promote the mission’s slogan: “Toss it? No way!”

“I love to see people coming in who wouldn’t normally think about where their trash goes and get them thinking about that,” Time4Time’s Repair Café coordinator Betsy Wallace said.

Wallace clarified that they prefer to bring in local business owners from Northwest Philadelphia to give them the chance to promote their skills and draw in new customers. Rather than digging endlessly through other regions of Philadelphia for their “fix it” event, the group canvassed and promoted the Repair Cafe throughout their own neighborhood.

The first café was held at the Center on the Hill, a sector of the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, in September and attracted more than 100 residents from neighborhoods throughout Northwest Philly, Wallace explained.

To keep a record of their event’s success, volunteers kept track of the number of participants and the number of repaired or partially repaired items. The group managed to draw in 104 people with 174 items. Of those broken items, 76 were completely repaired and another 48 were partially fixed. The most common broken items were lamps, Wallace said.

“I actually have a broken lamp that’s been sitting around for a while,” said Leslie Lefner, director of the Center on the Hill. “I’m excited to bring it in and be a participant instead of a volunteer this year.”

The next local Repair Café will be held in Germantown at the Germantown Life Enrichment Center on Greene Street.

Wallace has scheduled 17 “fixers” and 13 volunteers for the May Repair Café, but believes more people will show up on the day of to offer a helping hand

“You can try to prepare ahead if time, but most people decide to show up the day of,” Wallace said. “People just show up and that determines how many people will come.”

Repair Café volunteers have been canvassing Northwest Philly for weeks, dropping off fliers and coaxing business owners to join the event. Wallace said she anticipates about 50 to 75 participants this year because of a few changes they’ve made to this year’s event: no clothing swap, no refreshments and, most importantly, everyone is restricted to only bringing one item.

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