A laptop that won’t charge, an antique radio that won’t play, and a sewing machine that won’t sew. These are among the various broken objects that Athens area residents spent time repairing at the ReUse Fix-it Workshop at the Athens Public Library on Saturday, Nov. 21.
Many people find themselves in predicaments with broken objects like the aforementioned without a clue of how to repair them. Some may seek help and find that a simple problem requires an expensive fix, which may lead the owner to replace the item with something new.
Instead of throwing these objects away, or spending excessive amounts of money to get them fixed, ReUse Industries wants community members to fix the objects themselves. That’s why the organization has established its Fix-It Workshops. The sessions provide a space that’s free and open to the public, staffed by volunteer fixing coaches and tools to help community members troubleshoot and repair their broken belongings themselves.
“The idea is that people are participating in their own fixing [of objects],” said Matt Fedorko, a workshop volunteer.
The Fix-It Workshop on Saturday was the third such workshop that ReUse has organized. The first two pilot workshops were held around this time last year.
Erin Hogan, a local resident who attended the workshop with a laptop that wouldn’t charge, left the library with a successful fix-it job. Hogan sat down with her computer, and other volunteers and took apart the laptop to figure out the problem.
According to Hogan, a wire was broken inside the laptop where the power supply connects. Prior to the workshop, Hogan learned it would have cost her $300 to take the laptop to a repair shop to get it fixed.
“I really appreciate everything ReUse is doing for the community,” said Hogan, who said she plans on coming to future workshops and wants to volunteer herself someday.
After experiencing success with the workshops and gaining many more volunteers, ReUse has committed to running six workshops throughout 2016 instead of only two.
Community members can bring in just about any broken or non-functioning object. The list provided by ReUse Industries includes electronics such as DVD and CD players, radios and chargers; small appliances such as toasters, coffee makers, blenders, portable heaters and lamps; computers including laptops, tablets and desktops; toys such as remote-control cars, learning notebooks, handheld game consoles; and fabric, whether it’s clothing, curtains, bedding or stuffed animals.
Certain repairs on microwaves will not be made at the workshop due to the potentially hazardous conditions they can create.
Those who attend the workshop should bring the non-functioning item, appropriate accessories or tools that they may own, boxes, bags or small containers to organize parts.
The workshops are part of the ReUse missions to repair and assist in maintaining a local self-reliance. Complementing this effort is ReUse’s startup of a tool library in early October located at the ReUse Thrift Store on Columbus Road.
Zachary Holl, executive director of ReUse Industries, said tool libraries and Fix-It Workshops are popular in largely metropolitan areas but not so much in rural areas such as Athens County. The efforts are heavily funded by fundraising and donations, which are typically easier to obtain in a highly populated area.
Holl said that the Fix-It Workshops are modeled after the Fixit Clinic, an effort in Albany, California organized by Peter Mui. In the early stages of development for the Fix-It Workshop in Athens, Holl set up a conference call with Mui, who explained the process of a workshop and its essential requirements such as materials, volunteer help, and the types of items that are allowed.
“One of the coolest aspects of this is neighbors [are] helping neighbors,” said Holl.
Holl noted that the local workshops wouldn’t have happened without the help of Robin Kinney and Richard Post, who helped in the startup process. Both Post and Kinney also supervised and assisted with several repair projects at Saturday’s workshop.
Post said that he and Kinney found out about Holl’s interest in starting a Fix-It Workshop through Athens County Amateur Radio Association (ACARA), which was contacted by Holl. Post is a member of the ACARA, and Kinney volunteers for the association at the marathons for which the association provides communication support.
Kinney, a retired electrical engineer who spent his career working in California’s Silicon Valley, said that the goal of the workshops is for people learn how to fix their broken and non-functioning belongings in an environment where he and others with specialized knowledge in the appropriate fields can assist them.
Post, who retired from Ohio University as director of Instructional Media and Technology Services and is now an assistant dean emeritus, emphasized the importance of teaching people how to fix things in the workshop.
“Teaching and learning is an important part of this,” he said.
Post’s son Daniel, who works in the Office of Information Technology at Ohio University, was also a volunteer at the workshop.