Serving up repairs

Video: Toaster ovens, jewelry and clothes fixed at Repair Cafe

By Megan Kehoe / The Bulletin

Published Nov 8, 2013 at 04:00AM

Herman Chavez, 78, spent a portion of Thursday evening waiting patiently in line.

In his right hand, he clutched a toaster wrapped in a plastic bag. In his left, a round waffle iron.

Despite the fact that both of them had been broken for several years, Chavez stood in the crowded building, unwilling to let either one go without a fight.

“I hope they can fix it,” Chavez said, holding up the waffle iron. “I don't much care for the thick Belgian-style waffle makers you find in the stores.”

Chavez was one of many people waiting to get broken items fixed Thursday night during Central Oregon's first-ever Repair Cafe. The event, held at Pakit Liquidators in Bend, was organized by The Environmental Center's Rethink Waste Project, and allowed locals to get items fixed by volunteers for free.

“It seemed like the perfect event for the Rethink Waste Project,” said Denise Rowcroft, sustainability educator at The Environmental Center. “It's a good opportunity to help switch that mind-set that people have of just tossing something once it breaks.”

About 15 volunteers participated in the event, working to repair broken appliances, furniture and ripped clothing.

“I brought a bag of buttons,” said Allison Murphy, a volunteer who owns her own alterations and sewing business, Utilitu, in Bend. “It's funny how many people don't know how to sew a button back on.”

Murphy, who spent the evening behind a sewing machine repairing denim, adding zippers and patching up cloth, said she volunteered at the event because of her belief in sustainability.

“It really comes down to environment,” Murphy said. “We live in a land of excess. I think it's important to be aware and conscious of our choices.”

Reese Mercer, who has been active with BrightSide Animal Center in Redmond, brought a relatively new but unusable floor heater to the event to get repaired. The heater's electrical cord had been chewed through by one of Mercer's five dogs. Luckily, the heater had been unplugged at the time.

“I have a big house, and rather than heat the whole house, I like having space heaters in the rooms,” Mercer said, pointing to the heater. “It was an awesome — it was super beefy. But it's been just sitting and collecting dust since the dogs chewed it up.”

Mike De La Mater, a professional blacksmith and all-around handyman, spent a portion of the evening fixing the heater.

“It'll be fine — it just needs another cord,” he said, taking the heater apart.

The line for De La Mater's appliance fix station ended up being relatively long, with appliances accounting for the majority of malfunctioning items people brought. Vacuums, heaters and toasters proved to be the most popular, in addition to other kitchen items.

Chavez had good reason to come to the event. The toaster he brought originally cost $100. After it burned out a year ago, he thought about buying another one, but he said his wife liked the old one better.

“You can't really find handymen to fix things like this here,” Chavez said. “When things break, people usually just throw them away now.”

Though Chavez had high hopes of getting the toaster and waffle iron fixed, both were broken beyond repair. Still, most people left the Repair Cafe with items that had been salvaged.

“I wish there were more events like this,” Mercer said. “It's such a thrill to be able to take care of these things, rather than just replacing them. Most of them would probably just end up in a landfill.”