CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — The satisfaction of getting a favored lamp repaired could be seen in Cyndie Troischt’s face from across the room. She held the shiny, plated table lamp in one hand as she completed a critique of her experience with the other.
Troischt was one of the early arrivals for the first Clifton Park G.R.E.E.N. Committee Repair Café held Sept. 21 in the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Library. The repair was a simple one, a new three way switch. It had taken 25 minutes and come at no charge.
“It’s one of a pair. I wanted it repaired because they work so well,” she said. “If you notice most of the people here (for repairs) are women and most of what you see are lamps. I can’t bring my dishwasher or my doorbell.”
Indeed, for the early part of the four hour session many of those bringing items in were women, but as morning became noon men began arriving with their items.
One of them was a reporter looking to get his fax machine repaired. Dan Barkevich, an engineering manager for Northeast Controls and a self-proclaimed jack of all trades took on the project.
After hearing that the machine had stopped working after a thunderstorm he pointed to the seven screws on the bottom and advised taking them off and looking at the guts of the machine.
“Part of this event is repair and part is learning how to do it yourself for next time,” he said. “Here’s a screw driver. Take those out and let’s see what we’ve got.”
From there it was all trial and error as Barkevich pried out electronic boards and together he and the reporter went through the soldered connections one by one with a multimeter checking for power.
“Here’s the transient surge absorber,” he said pointing to a miniscule part. “In English that’s a fuse.”
Barkevich said he started volunteering at the area’s Repair Cafes because he was always looking for places to volunteer for something to do. One day his wife saw one of the advertisements and showed it to him. He’s since volunteered at eight Repair Cafes in Schenectady, two in Saratoga and now one in Clifton Park.
“There are simple fixes and then there are tough ones where we get a whole gang working on it,” he said. “It’s amazing to me how much affection we have for some of these things.”
A Repair Café is a free, volunteer-operated program where community members with a variety of skills volunteer their time and expertise to collectively repair small items brought to them by their owners.
The movement of repairing rather than tossing was started in 2009 in Amsterdam, Netherlands as an alternative to a throwaway society and as a way to keep the items out of landfills. It was brought to New Paltz in 2013 by a dedicated volunteer organizer.
Norman, who asked that his last name not be used, brought in a miniature fiber optic Christmas tree with a lighting mechanism at the base that was no longer working. The repair crew corrected the problem in a few minutes.
“I’ve had it 20 years and didn’t want to throw it away,” Norman said.
Though the rules limit the number of items one can bring in to two, allowances are made when it’s not busy. Gurind Garcha brought a chair, a sewing machine, and a bike that needed the brakes fixed.
“They got my brakes working,” he said holding the bike. “Now I can put a seat on it and go biking.”
Diane Shichtman was the day’s volunteer making repairs on jewelry at the jewelry table. It was one of the tables busy for most of the day. Shichtman is a college professor in the area.
“I started as a grad student and kept doing it,” she said while never taking her eyes off the project she held in her hands. “It’s that tactile thing. Small things make people happy.”
Laura S., another customer to the Café who asked that her last name not be used, brought in a kitchen drawer, a watch, and a jacket that needed a new zipper.
“I didn’t know about this. I was visiting the library, saw this and went home and got a few things,” she said. “This is great for the community. It’d be good to have some more. It saves things from being thrown out or stored in garages.”
Jim Leach and Woody Sloat helped fix the drawer. It was the first Repair Café for both men.
“It was basically falling apart,” Leach said. “We did a few surgical repairs with clamps and glue and installing reinforcement brackets. Doing this is my way of fighting throw-away consumerism. It’s better to repair then throw out. Use it up, make it do or do without.”
Sloat felt much the same.
“I got into this when I ran into a neighbor who couldn’t find anyone who could help them fix something,” he said. “Go and try and find a place that fixes things today. You can’t.”
G.R.E.E.N. Committee member and co-Café organizer Joanne Coons estimated 30 people brought items in for repair. Alas, all items were not successfully fixed. The reporter’s fax machine was one.
It remains inoperable.