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Revitalize Broken Items at Joliet Junior College’s Repair Cafe

Sam Bretz, a former student of culinary arts at Joliet Junior College, participated in the Repair Café event on campus, bringing along her floor fan for repair. She mentioned that while the fan was functional, it was not circulating air properly. Despite the potential cost of purchasing a new fan ranging from \(50 to \)60, Bretz emphasized her environmental concern, stating, “I don’t want to add to landfills.”

The Repair Café initiative, which was piloted at the main campus in October, aims to match skilled volunteers with individuals requiring repair services for various items, thereby promoting waste reduction. The event covers a wide range of repair categories such as electrical appliances, clothing, furniture, toys, bicycles, and jewelry, among others. Notably, Repair Café events, which first originated in Holland 15 years ago, have now expanded to over 2,500 locations worldwide.

Maria Anna Rayfac, an architecture professor and sustainability coordinator at JJC, collaborated with Ashley Klinder, a biology student and sustainability intern, to organize the Repair Café. Klinder, who practices “creative mending,” was actively involved in repairing items during the event, including sewing a patch onto a shirt for Yolanda Zenawick from the college’s records department.

Furthermore, Janna Stub, a fine arts student specializing in costume design, was captured replacing buttons on a dress at the Repair Café event held on April 13, 2024, at the JJC Romeoville campus.

The Repair Café not only serves as a platform to extend the lifespan of items and reduce waste but also fosters knowledge-sharing among participants. Klinder, who multitasked by managing the event and performing repairs, expressed her enthusiasm for the dual role she played during the event.

Participants like Yolanda Zenawick highlighted their commitment to sustainability by opting for thrift store purchases and actively engaging in repair initiatives. Zenawick’s versatile shirt, which she wore to various occasions, underwent repair at the event, showcasing her willingness to embrace patched clothing as a style statement.

Additionally, the Repair Café attracted diverse repair requests, including the restoration of a Zenith Trans-Oceanic radio by Chuck Kwasniewski, who sought assistance in fixing the device acquired from a garage sale. The event also featured volunteers like Pat Asher, a retired JJC teacher, who repaired sentimental items such as Cindy Weber’s childhood musical rocking chair.

The Repair Café event not only addresses the practical aspect of repairs but also holds sentimental value for participants like Toni Budzinski, who eagerly awaited the restoration of her favorite knit sweater. Volunteers like Melanie Hallam, who offered sewing and embroidery skills, contributed to the success of the event by actively engaging in repairing items and preserving cherished belongings.

Overall, the Repair Café event at Joliet Junior College exemplifies a community-driven initiative focused on sustainability, waste reduction, and the revival of cherished possessions through skillful repairs.