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Fixers fix all sorts of broken things

Repair Cafe encourages repair over throwing away.

The multi-purpose room in the basement of St. James Anglican Church on Glasgow Street was transformed into a community workshop Saturday morning for the Guelph Tool Library’s first Repair Café.

“We are bringing in a variety of volunteer fixers from the community,” said Saba Saneinajad, coordinator with the Guelph Tool Library and an organizer of the Repair Cafe. “We are promoting fixing skills that are being lost.”

People were encouraged to sit with the fixers and learn how to fix the items they brought in, such as radios, jewelry, clothing, tools, toasters, bicycles, and an old 8mm Bell and Howell movie projector.

Volunteer Atash Abdul Hamid rang a bell to announce each time another item had been successfully repaired, and his sister Massouda Abdul Hamid snapped a photograph for the Tool Library website.

“We are hoping to schedule these once a month or maybe once every two months depending on demand,” said Saneinajad.  “It is a free event but we are accepting money and tool donations.”

The Repair Café is also intended to raise awareness about the Guelph Tool Library, an initiative of the Urban Food Working Group of Transition Guelph.

“It’s an anti-poverty initiative,” said John Dennis, tool library coordinator and chair of the social justice committee at St. James Anglican Church.

Dennis said the Urban Food Working Group has been successful at encouraging people to grow food in their home gardens. The tool library is a way for them to access gardening tools such as shovels, hoes, wheelbarrows, and even rototillers.

Other tools available include cordless drills, a mitre saw, a cider press, and a pressure canner.

Members pay an annual fee of $40 that allows them to borrow tools posted on the Guelph Tool Library website at .

“We have a small delivery fee for large items such as a rototiller if you are unable to pick them up yourself,” said coordinator Susan Carey. “It is all part of the sharing economy.”

The City of Guelph has helped out with a well-being grant and other sponsors include JD Small Engines, The Rotary Club of Guelph Trillium, Sustainability at the University of Guelph, and the Toronto Tool Library.

The Repair Café concept started in Amsterdam in 2009 and has since grown into an international network with more than 400 worldwide.

“They provide us with advice and a media kit,” said Carey.  “We are taking notes. This is our first one so there is a bit of a learning curve.”

Many of the volunteers at the Repair Café Saturday have their own retail, service or repair businesses in the city, such as Nicole Gagnon owner of Nicole Gagnon Wooden Designs, and Steven Rodd and Karen Dodds owners of Elvenwoods, artisan silks, felt and jewelry.

“I was invited to repair jewelry,” said Dodds. “This is a great concept.”

Tony Boog, who works for parks and recreation at the City of Guelph helped with a number of repairs including his own pet project.

“I am trying to rebuild an isolation transformer I inherited from my brother,” he said. “It has seen better days.”

Gilberta Van Houtven brought in an old transistor radio.

“This old radio worked better than any of the new ones I’ve bought,” she said.

Jeff Madge who works in IT during the day was happy to help her out.

“It has a broken flywheel so I am fixing that and re-tensioning the tuner cable,” said Madge. “This older stuff was designed to be repaired, unlike many modern things.”

Organizers hope to attract more skilled fixers from the community to future events, as well as people with items that can be repaired. 

“I love the idea of fixing stuff instead of throwing it in the landfill.” said Dennis. “We have all these people volunteering and helping out by donating tools for gardening and construction. How great is that?

To learn more about upcoming Repair Cafes and the Guelph Tool Library visit the website at, email [email protected], or visit in person at 123 Woolwich St. Unit #1 in Guelph.



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Troy Bridgeman

About the Author: Troy Bridgeman

Troy Bridgeman is a multi-media journalist that has lived and worked in the Guelph community his whole life. He has covered news and events in the city for more than two decades.
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