As a zero waste initiative village, New Paltz practices ways to reduce its environmental impact all year, not just in April.
This spring, the newest venture underway in New Paltz is a Repair Café, intended to be a place for community members to take their broken items and not only have them fixed, but learn how to fix them from a team of experienced volunteer repair-persons. The cost is a donation only.
Opening for the first time on Saturday, May 18, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the United Methodist Church on Grove Street, the Repair Café is an idea that began in Amsterdam as a way to save items that could have a second life by being repaired instead of thrown away.
“New Paltz, I think, is a good fit,” said organizer John Wackman. “The level of awareness about sustainability here is very high.”
Held each year on April 22, Earth Day has been celebrated as a global event since 2009, when ‘International Mother Earth Day’ was officially adopted by the United Nations. Earth Day is about conserving our resources and raising awareness on environmental issues — but it is also about building community.
Wackman would like to see the Repair Café become so busy it requires being open as often as five days a week. For now it will be once a month. “The location of the Methodist Church is perfect because it’s such a close walk to campus,” said Wackman, who pictures college students as well as long-time community members finding help at the Repair Café.
“This is an idea of where people can come together as community to share and help one another,” said Pastor Bette Johnson Sohm, of the New Paltz United Methodist Church. “We’re always pleased to open our doors and invite people in.”
Items that may be fixed include small appliances, fabric and clothing, furniture, jewelry, and dolls and stuffed animals. The Repair Café will host “coaches,” as they are called by other repair locations around the country, in each of these categories.
“If you loved it as a child, you can give it to your grandchild — repaired,” said Felicia Casey, graphic designer and operator of Swan Hollow Doll Repair in Highland.
Casey, who will be one of the repair coaches, said her skills are based in an understanding of dolls and their mechanics. Casey’s personal hobby of fixing dolls and old toys became a public offering after years of fixing things for friends and acquaintances. “People need this skill of mine,” she said. “I like to make sure that anything I buy or anyone else buys lasts as long as possible.” Other coaches include Jack “Jack the Stripper” Hacker, furniture repair; Ken “Ken-Fix-It” Boscher; and others as yet to be decided.
Sweet and savory treats made by The Bakery will be sold at the Repair Café, with proceeds contributing to any overhead costs, according to Wackman. “I really want parents to bring kids,” Wackman said. “The awareness of living a sustainable lifestyle is really important.” New to the community, he has created a New Paltz Repair Café Facebook, as a way to reach and connect with other residents about his idea, and plans to “paper the town” with posters.
This year, the United Methodist Church will also host the annual giveaway of items collected from SUNY New Paltz dorm recycling efforts and student donations, Saturday, May 18. “Tables will be set up and everything is free,” Pastor Bette said. “It’s about sharing with each other and working together towards responsible stewardship.”