Oak Park Launches a Repair Café


What do you do with a broken toaster? Or a lamp that no longer lights? Or with a sweater that has  holes? Throw it away? Certainly not! The Lifelong Learning Center and local volunteers are organizing the first Repair Café in Oak Park, IL starting in January, 2013.


At the Repair Café, located in the Lifelong Learning Center at the Oak Park Arms, 414 S. Oak Park Avenue, everything centers on making repairs and sharing knowledge. Various volunteer experts will be available: electricians, seamstresses and general handy people to help make all possible repairs free of charge. Tools and materials will also be on hand. People visiting the Repair Café can bring along their broken items from home. Toasters, lamps, hair dryers, clothes, toys, crockery... anything that is broken is welcome. And can more than likely be repaired. The specialists in Repair Café almost always have the know-how.

By promoting repairs, the Lifelong Learning Center wants to help reduce mountains of waste. This is absolutely necessary, according to Nancy Bauer: "We throw away piles of stuff…even things which practically have nothing wrong with them, and which could easily be used again after a simple repair. Unfortunately, many people have forgotten that they can have things repaired. Or they don’t know how to make the fix themselves. The Repair Café wants to change all that."

The Repair Café is also meant to put neighbors in touch with each other in a new way, by showing that a lot of know-how and practical skills can be found close to home. Nancy Bauer: "If you repair a bike, a CD player or a pair of pants together with a previously unfamiliar neighbor, you look at that person in a different light the next time you run into them on the street. Jointly making repairs can lead to pleasant contacts in the neighborhood."

Nancy points out that repairs can save money and resources, and can help minimize CO2 emissions. “But above all, The Repair Café just wants to show how much fun repairing things can be, and how easy it often is.”

We can’t guarantee that you’ll walk out with a workable item, as we may not have the skills or necessary parts on hand.  But we’ll give it our best shot.  To increase the chances of successful repair, please call the Lifelong Learning Center at 708-848-5251 in advance, and leave a message letting us know what kind of item you might be bringing in to be fixed.  We have a group of volunteers ready to assist you, and knowing a bit more in advance about the repair projects means we stand a better chance of having materials and knowledge available to get the job done.  (If you have the item’s Owner’s Manual, please bring that, too).

Repair Café Foundation:  The Repair Café concept arose in Amsterdam, where the Repair Café Foundation (see www.repaircafe.nl) has regularly been organizing gatherings since 2010. Since January 2011, the foundation has provided support to local groups in the Netherlands wishing to start their own Repair Café. The foundation also supports the Repair Café in Oak Park, IL., USA.