Lincoln Volunteers Save Broken Items

By Bryan Haarmann

With growing awareness of overconsumption and excess waste, more and more people are looking for ways to cut back. While its relatively simple to find ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle, one method of cutting down waste has gone overlooked – repairing. Things seem to break all the time, but a large amount of these items could be easily fixed with the right tools and knowledge. Unfortunately, to people who don’t possess the skills, it seems easier to buy a replacement. In Lincoln, a group of volunteers are offering their services to repair these items and save them from the landfill.

The Lincoln Repair Café is a no cost event where you can enjoy good company with neighbors while your still useable item gets repaired.

“We are older, but competent in our skills, having learned from our parents or aunts and uncles or teachers along the way. We enjoy fixing things” says Jeanette Nakada, whom has been running Lincoln’s Repair Café for over four years. “It is deeply satisfying to feel useful and to see people leave with a repaired item and a smile on their face.”

While Lincoln’s Repair Café is the only one in Nebraska, it is one of over 1,500 cafes around the world since the concept was started in 2009 by Martine Postma from the Netherlands. Lincoln’s Café, which meets one Sunday a month at The Commons in the near south neighborhood, averages roughly 15 repairs each event. They have seen the life of many items extended with simple repairs. Coffee makers, DVD players, flashlights, toasters, lamps, vacuums; the list goes on and on. With a 90% repair rate, Nakada says, it seems as if there is nothing that can’t be fixed.

The team currently consists of two people dedicated to mending and repairing clothing, one who fixes jewelry, and four who work on furniture and household appliances.
Joining them are a couple of other volunteers who greet arrivals and serve refreshments. This aspect of community building is a big part of the organization’s mission to build meaningful relationships as well as addressing overconsumption and waste.

Behind every item is a story. Larry James, one of the repairers, worked on a window fan for someone that was the only source of cool air for their home. One volunteer, Amanda, recalls a malt machine which had been a part of the owner’s life since her grandparents put it in their soda shop in rural Nebraska ninety years before. Thanks to a simple repair, they’re able to use it again.

The Repair Café is held one Sunday a month from 1-3pm. For more information on dates visit the Lincoln Repair Café Facebook group.

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