Repair Cafe Oshkosh joins global effort to reduce waste, fix broken items

Next Repair Cafe Oshkosh event set for May 11

a volunteer looks at a broken item
A Repair Cafe Oshkosh volunteer looks at a sewing machine at a recent event. Photo courtesy of Repair Cafe Oshkosh

A new community organization in Oshkosh is helping residents fix their broken household items free of charge, and it’s part of a global movement.

The volunteer group Repair Cafe Oshkosh has hosted three events offering community members free fixes for things like clothing, computers, jewelry and furniture. Another event is scheduled May 11 at the downtown Oshkosh YMCA.

Gary Hammen and Michael Borucke, volunteers with the group, recently spoke about their efforts on WPR’s “The Morning Show.”  Hammen said he got involved after seeing a post on social media. He credited Borucke with bringing the idea to Oshkosh.

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“I thought that was a great idea of helping out your fellow neighbors and fixing some of their memorabilia and some of the stuff that they have around the house that they don’t necessarily have the skill set to fix,” Hammen said. “I give that hat’s off to Michael because he was one that really brought it to our attention.”

Borucke said it’s been rewarding to see community members share their skills with others for a good cause. 

“People in the community, they want to help,” he said. “I think the Repair Cafe is a place for people to come together.”

The Repair Cafe movement started in the Netherlands in 2009

Martine Postma, who launched the idea in the Netherlands, appeared on “The Morning Show” with Hammen and Borucke. She said she felt that too many items were being thrown away needlessly. 

“I wanted to help waste prevention, and, at the same time, this turned out to be a very social thing too,” she said. “It really got people talking about the subject of their throw-away behavior, about community, about sustainability.”

Postma said the idea resonated with people around the world, and the movement been growing ever since. There’s now over 3,000 Repair Cafes in more than 40 countries , she said.

It’s already growing in Wisconsin too. Borucke said three of the Oshkosh organization’s “fixers” plan to start their own branch in Appleton.

“Repair Cafe Fox Cities will be coming online shortly,” he said. “They’re still with us fixing, but they’re also organizing in the next community.”

Hammen added that he thinks there’s a need across Wisconsin for Repair Cafes, both at the local and regional level. He said those interested in creating a similar effort in their community should start by talking to their friends and neighbors about ways to collaborate.

“Start talking to people. That’s all we really did. We had some meetings at the local library, and just started to come up with, ‘Let’s start talking to some local businesses, and finding a place to host it,’” he said. “When you start reaching out and talking to different people, somebody’s always got a connection with somebody that can help you out.”

Postma said she was thrilled to see her idea continuing to spread.

“This makes my day, that a small idea is being picked up by people around the world,” she said. “Kids coming in with bicycles and having a sparkle in their eye after the repair, and people wanting to pass on their skills, it’s part of the magic. That’s really what it’s about.”