Can we fix it? Volunteers for Lake Oswego's Repair Fair can
The helpers at community repair fairs are not your typical run-of-the-mill volunteers — they're fixers and healers of most things broken.
During Lake Oswego's upcoming Repair Fair Saturday, Feb. 1, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Lake Oswego United Methodist Church, there are roughly 10 volunteers on deck to help fix items across many different categories. People can bring in anything from small electronics and home appliances to clothes and jewelry.
"Any time you can keep something out of a landfill, that's just huge," said Milwaukie resident Carol Wagner, a volunteer at the Repair Fair who will be helping with sewing and jewelry repair.
Though Wagner has never been to the Lake Oswego event before, she's been volunteering her skills at other local repair fairs since 2017.
"I like to help out," she said. "It's another opportunity to help fix things."
Wagner's skills didn't fall far from the tree.
"I was raised by parents that were huge do-it-yourselfers," she said.
Wagner's father was a handy-man and fixed broken items around the house.
Wagner took to sewing and learned the craft at age 13.
"For me, sewing was a necessity because I'm one of nine children," said Wagner, adding that when she wanted new clothes, her mother decided it was time for Wagner to learn how to make her own. "I have this huge gift of being spatial. I can look at something and figure out how it goes together really easily … That's why I'm so crafty."
Wagner sews, knits and crochets, and she also makes jewelry, origami, woodwork and other items.
Wagner always thought she'd be a professional seamstress and took classes to learn the craft, but instead she's been a bookkeeper for the last 40 years — a job she said she loves. In her free time, she enjoys keeping up with her sewing craft and volunteering her time and skills.
"I'm grateful that I have all the abilities I have," Wagner said.
Portland resident Mary Kiriakedis, who will also help with sewing at the Repair Fair, will bring her sewing machine as well as a variety of threads, buttons and fabrics in case people need patchwork done.
"I enjoy showing people that things can be repaired rather than tossed," said Kiriakedis, who has been sewing as a hobby since she was 10. "It's a way for me to give back to the community and in turn, I'm giving back to the earth."
Kiriakedis attended her first Repair Fair in Lake Oswego a couple years ago when she heard about the opportunity on Nextdoor. She enjoyed it so much that she's continued to volunteer, and has helped fix clothing items at about six events so far.
She enjoys repairing seams, replacing buttons and mending holes.
"It makes me feel good to make something that wasn't usable back to usable again," Kiriakedis said.
Oregon City resident Jim Carlisle, who specializes in fixing appliances, said he feels the same way.
He enjoys the challenge of restoring a product into proper operating conditions, rather than trashing it.
"The big advantage for the client is having their keepsake repaired rather than being thrown away," Carlisle said.
Carlisle started out fixing small appliances like irons, toasters and mixers, before he had the ability to drive. He then started specializing in fixing larger appliances like refrigerators and water heaters.
"It's my specialty; my entire life, my entire career has been in some area of product service, satisfying customer needs for product service," Carlisle said. "It's the adrenaline rush that you get when something is put before you that doesn't work and you're able to restore it to proper operation and proper safety."
And while the repairers acknowledge that they can't fix everything, Carlisle said it's important for the repair volunteers to not disassemble an item before knowing what's wrong.
Like a doctor says, Carlisle added: "Do no harm."
Kiriakedis encourages the public bring their items, and the repair volunteers will do their best to fix whatever they can.
The event is free and hosted by Master Recyclers, Clackamas County and the Lake Oswego Sustainability Network. Styrofoam recycling will also be available.
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