A weed eater sputters, dies, is shelved in storage, and later gets tossed. A torn sweater shoved to the back of the drawer finally lands in the trash. Sound familiar? WNC (Western North Carolina) Repair Cafe seeks to change this outcome by recognizing that skills once readily passed on from older to younger can be revived and taught again.
Dan Hettinger of Asheville, North Carolina, started out with a concern for overflowing landfills. But then he was inspired by a man in Beckley, West Virginia. That man fixed old bicycles. He took them to the flea market and gave away bikes and helmets to any child who wanted one. “It was such a simple and direct way to give back to his community,” says Hettinger. He was struck by the community care he saw in conjunction with the repurposing of what some might have just sent to the dump. But not everyone knows how to repair the goods that wear out.
So Hettinger cofounded WNC Repair Cafe in 2017. He organizes events that match local volunteers with area repair needs. People want to prevent waste. They also need connection with others. Repair Cafe events bring together people of all ages from diverse backgrounds.
“I didn’t expect to be moved by the ‘community-building’ aspect of it—the recurring visitors that actually needed the help,” Hettinger says. “Some of the volunteers had not considered how valuable their skills (and by extension, themselves) were to the community.”
Every person has God-given talents that benefit others. 1 Peter 4:10 urges, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”
In March, WNC Repair Cafe hosted a sewing event at a local library. Peggy Carlson walked in with her sewing machine to offer her services. Carlson’s mom taught her to sew. She honed her skills through Girl Scout projects and home economics classes.
Shortly after Carlson signed volunteer paperwork, Marc Czarnecki approached her with pants that needed hemming. Czarnecki is also a Repair Cafe volunteer. He has fixed everything from canoe paddles to appliances at past events. He learned practical skills from his father.
Czarnecki notes repair knowledge uses STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). Kids who engage in STEM activities learn to problem solve in ways that benefit them for a lifetime.
WNC Repair Cafe has more skills training workshops on the docket. It teams up with the Asheville Tool Library, which makes more than 2,000 donated tools available. For a low annual fee, individuals can borrow any tool for a week. Mr. Hettinger stresses, “Shop classes and trades are so useful. These skills are needed. They’re not going away, and they’re something to be proud of.”
Hettinger adds, “Fixing things is almost always easier than you think. Sometimes it’s just a matter of asking for help.”
Why? People can solve more problems and address more needs when they work together in community than when they operate alone.
Pray more communities will find ways to serve one another by sharing experiences, talents, and knowledge. Connection and passing down useful skills blesses everyone.