For many, replacing a broken object with something new is often the faster and cheaper alternative to fixing it, but a group of neighbors in the small borough of Willimantic, Connecticut, decided it didn’t have to be that way. Three years ago, they started a program to keep salvageable goods from landfills by harnessing the community’s collective skills to fix them.

They started a "repair cafe," where once a season locals can bring broken household items like vacuums, bicycles, and clothes for repair. Knowledgeable neighbors help fix the broken items and provide their owners with a few tips on how to take care of problems in the future.

Virginia Walton helped organize the first repair cafe. She says that while the repair cafe started as a way to encourage residents to reuse and recycle, it has since become a community event that helps people get to know each other. "I'm no professional, but when I finish mending something … the person has such a look of joy on her face," she says. "It's soul food."

Jean DeSmet and John Schwenk working on a spotlight. Photo by Elisha Sherman.
Students sewing with guests. Photo by Elisha Sherman.
Adam Schueritzel and Kurt Ravenwood. Photo by Eva Csejtey.
Bookbinding by Sandy Rosado. Photo by Eva Csejtey.
Judy Prill’s lamp workshop. Photo by Eva Csejtey.
Linkesh Diwan fixing a chair. Photo by Eva Csejtey. 
Header photo of electronics fixers and guests by Elisha Sherman. Araz Hachadourian wrote this article for 50 Solutions, the Winter 2017 issue of YES! Magazine. Hachadourian is a regular contributor to YES! Follow her on Twitter @ahachad2.
YES Magazine


YES Magazine

YES! Magazine reframes the biggest problems of our time in terms of their solutions. Online and in print, we outline a path forward with in-depth analysis, tools for citizen engagement,