Repair Cafe attracts a variety of broken items

CAFCA | January 28, 2015 |

 WILLIMANTIC - Howard Raphaelson brought two VCRs to the First Congregational Church in Willimantic on Saturday because there was something wrong with them.

Helen Armstrong brought an antique lamp to the church because she couldn't get it to turn on.

And Lisa Petropoulos and Sarah Bartosiak came to get some of their clothes mended.

They weren't looking for a miracle, just a skilled set of hands to help fix their belongings at the region's second Repair Café, hosted by The Access Community Action Agency and held in the church's auditorium.

"I have a number of tapes I haven't watched yet," Raphaelson, of Mansfield, said.

He was grateful for the chance to come to the Repair Café.

"I think it's great. The 'throw-away society' is not something I'm comfortable with," he said.

It's a chance for anyone to bring in a broken item — something they can carry — to get it diagnosed and fixed, free of charge except for replacement parts, if needed. Access also gladly accepts donations.

John Schwenk, a Willimantic resident trained as an electrical engineer with 35 years of experience, was able to get the moving parts inside the VCRs to work properly. There was no TV to test the images, however.

"That's OK. I'm ahead of where I was," Raphaelson said.

Access Community Action held its first such event in September, and hopes to have one every few months, organizer Ginny Walton said.

"People can learn how to repair their items, too," she said. "The idea is to build community, prevent waste and teach people skills that are quickly vanishing."

Walton said the Repair Café concept originated in the Netherlands and spread to other areas, including the United States.

"There's one in Connecticut, that's us, and we just started," she said. The church is conveniently located across the street from a hardware store, so it's easy to get parts when needed, Walton said.

Armstrong brought her lamp to Bill Ingalls and Adam Scheuritzel, Lebanon men who spent some time looking at the chain mechanism to turn on each of its two bulbs.

"It's been in the family for three generations," Armstrong said.

The internal switch on at least one bulb was broken, so the men put a new switch onto the lamp's cord to make the lamp usable again, even with the broken original switch.

"There's not much to it," Ingalls said.

Armstrong also volunteered her sewing skills at the event. That came in handy for Petropoulos and Bartosiak.

"A dress had a waist band where the seam was pulling, so we got that fixed. And Helen just showed me how to fix the arm sleeve of a dress," Bartosiak said.

Petropoulos fixed "anything with messed-up hems."