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Hands-on knowledge – Repair Fair offers free ‘fixberts’ – and training

By Melissa Wagoner

In 2019 Christy Davis attended a Repair Fair – an event put on by Marion County Environmental Services (MCES) in Salem that encouraged community members to bring broken items – those in danger of being thrown out –  in order to have them repaired by an expert.

“What I saw at the Repair Fair was awesome,” Davis recalled. “There were people in all of the different areas getting bikes fixed, appliances diagnosed, beads on a necklace restrung, holes patched in their pants. There was a lot of laughter and buzz and they were well organized.”

The first Silverton Repair Fair is based on an pre-COVID event in Salem. Dakota Tangredi

It was a wonderful experience and one Davis – Director of the Silver Falls Library District – wanted to replicate. 

“It was community building while things were being fixed and diverted from the landfill,” she said, listing the attributes that she found most attractive, including the obvious bonus of money saved. 

“This was a mix of so many good things,” she continued, “including volunteerism.”

And so, upon her return to Silverton, she began meeting with Kelley Morehouse, a member of Sustainable Silverton, a nonprofit whose mission – to increase the health and resiliency of the community in the face of the climate crisis – is directly in-line with that of MCES. 

“I was very happy to talk to Kelley…to learn that her group was also really interested in a Repair Fair and that they had already established a relationship with MCES,” Davis said. 

Unfortunately, because the initial fair was planned for the summer of 2020 – not long after the COVID-19 pandemic began – it was necessarily canceled, as was the 2021 fair as well. 

“[B]ut now we’re going for it and the library is happy to be a part of the organizational and promotional aspects of Silverton’s first fair,” Davis said of the 2022 event, which is scheduled for Monday, May 9, 3 to 6 p.m. at Coolidge McClaine Park. “I am hoping it will grow, that there will be more, and that the library will be a future location…”

In the meantime, community members are encouraged to register for a repair using a link on the Sustainable Silverton webpage – www.sustainablesilverton.org – which will enable the “Fixberts” to gather any necessary supplies ahead of time and to reserve a timeslot for both the repair and a demo of how it’s done.

Attendees are recommended to RSVP on Sustainable Silverton’s website. Dakota Tangredi

“Because it’s not just the free repair, it’s the learning component,” Dakota Tangredi, the MCES Waste Reduction Coordinator in charge of organizing the fair, said. “It’s really about knowledge sharing. It’s all these old concepts that we’re bringing back.”

Concepts like sewing a patch, rewiring a lamp or restringing a necklace that enable an item to be salvaged rather than thrown away. 

“It’s the other side of the landfill,” Tangredi said. “And it’s displacing the need to buy a new thing.”

Which is an important part of the waste reduction MCES is working toward.

“We have to go up the chain,” he pointed out, describing how fixing or repurposing an item is actually more helpful when it comes to energy reduction than both recycling and composting combined.

“Even if every state recycled and composted everything we used it would only be a three percent reduction in energy,” he confirmed. “It’s sometimes hard to tell people that.”

Thankfully, it’s a trend he sees popping up in more places than ever before.

“It’s flipping a little bit,” he said, listing Philanthropy Phabrics and The Northwest Hub in Salem as well as the Santiam Canyon Tool Library as some of the many organizations that are working to put an end to the need for purchasing everything new.

“They’re also starting to bring some of the trade stuff back,” he continued.

Which is where events like the Repair Fair can be of help, by giving entire communities access to both the skills and knowledge that repairing broken items is not only possible but positive. 

“Having these skills is cool,” Tangredi agreed. “And all these Fixberts are great. But they’re going to go away, so we need to get kids interested.”

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