by Len Lear
Once upon a time in America, when something in the home was broken — a toaster, bicycle, vacuum cleaner, TV set, sofa — it would actually be fixed by the homeowner or by a repairman. Today, however, in our throwaway society, when something in the home is broken, it often is just thrown into the trash, and a new one (probably made in China) is purchased.
However, at least for one day, the clock is going to be turned way back. This Saturday, Sept. 20, from 1:30 to 5 p.m. the N.W. Philly Repair Café will be set up at the Center on the Hill, 8855 Germantown Ave. This is a family-friendly event with food (supplied by Weavers Way) and fun for all. Neighbors from Chestnut Hill, Mt. Airy, Wyndmoor and other adjacent communities will pool their skills and labor to fix things at no cost, like clothing, coffee-makers, computers, lamps, chairs and toys, and gluing the plastic thingy that broke off that new item you just bought.
Here’s how it works: Volunteer local experts/fixers will set up repair stations; you bring in your broken stuff (electrical appliances, computers, clothing, housewares, bicycles, etc.) and replacement parts, if needed. You and the volunteer fixer will work together to repair your item. If your item can’t be fixed, it can be recycled right there, or kids might use it to make an art project during the event.
The N.W. Philly Repair Café will also have demonstrations on interesting topics (like homesteading and computer maintenance tips). There will be good food and a place for you to sit and chat with neighbors. The Repair Café is funded in part by the Chestnut Hill Community Fund and co-sponsored by the Center on the Hill and Time4Time Community Exchange.
Betsy Wallace, member coordinator for Time4Time Community Exchange and a retired lawyer from Wyndmoor, told us last week, “We will have about 35 volunteer fixers present. Everybody I’ve talked to about this thinks it’s a great idea!…We’re polling our volunteer fixers to see if they’d be interested in doing it again in the spring.”
The Repair Café idea apparently started in Holland in 2009, and hundreds of other cities around the world have tried to duplicate it since then. For example, there was one held in New Bedford, Massachusetts, one month ago (Aug. 4), and an article in The Chronicle, a newspaper that covers New Bedford, stated in part in their Aug. 5 issue:
“Both (repairmen) were talking to the owners of the objects, getting their histories and sharing their own stories. Behind them, others in line with broken weed whackers and dull pruning shears waited their turn at the fix-it experts, and talking to each other — all according to plan.
‘“We didn’t do much advertising, mainly word of mouth,’ local Time Exchange director and Repair Café organizer Bob Bailey said. ‘But we wanted it to be neighborhood and people-based,’ he added. The group’s over-arching philosophy is as much about building relationships as it is fixing objects, he said, ‘and there’s no better way than working with somebody… that’s how you build a relationship.’”
Time4Time Community Exchange is a volunteer-led initiative, a community-wide circle of giving in the Chestnut Hill area in which people volunteer their talents and receive, in return, help with their unmet needs, using time as an alternative currency. While modern TimeBanking was created over 30 years ago, it is a new concept to many of us. The basic premise of TimeBanking is that it is an organized way to “pay-it-forward.”
“It is really quite simple,” Wallace explained in an earlier interview. “At Time4Time, all work is equal. The important thing is how long it takes for you to do the work. If I spend an hour helping a Time4Time member solve a computer problem and another time bank member spends an hour preparing a meal for someone else, then we each get one hour of time credit each for our work. Each of us can then bank those credits and seek other services offered by fellow time bank members.”