My turn Elizabeth Knight Moss The Repair Café: ‘Not just fixing things ... but repairing souls’

| 27 Jul 2017 | 01:37

The July 15 Repair Café broke our previous customer service record of 52. Based on the returned work forms, volunteer coaches helped 130 people. Most “customers” were from Warwick (76), but we also attracted folks from Chester (6), Florida (6) Goshen (2), Greenwood Lake (5), Highland Mills (Ulster County 2), Middletown (6), Monroe (7), Montgomery (5), Mt. Hope (1), Newburgh (2), New Windsor (1), Pine Bush (2), Pine Island (2), Roscoe (Sullivan County 1), Sugar Loaf (2), Tomkins Cove (Rockland County 1), Wawayanda (1), Woodbury (1), and Vernon (1) and Wantage (1) in New Jersey.
The Café was promoted on the Warwick Village and Town websites, in an email blast circulated by The Warwick Valley Chamber of Commerce, and in the Reporter’s Notebook section of a Times Herald-Record reporter. We got a calendar listing in Chronogram magazine as well as some Straus News publications. Coach bios ran in The Warwick Valley Dispatch, The Warwick Advertiser, The Photo News (Monroe), the West Milford Messenger and the Chronicle, which covers Goshen and Chester.
Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton mentioned the café in his WV Dispatch column, dropped in on Saturday for a visit and kindly adjusted the Senior Center’s air conditioner.
Volunteers pick in
Thankfully, we had extra greeters, including several whom I had never met before, and a cheerful group of kids from St. Edwards/St. Stephens who worked the check-in desk with one of the boy’s mother. Carl Singer, spouse of sewing coach Deanne, volunteered to make coffee, manage the café and fetch pizza as well as scooting chairs over to customers wilting in long lines.
As at previous cafes, we could have opened a second-hand lamp store with all the wonky ones needing repairs. One man even dragged in four floor lamps with the idea that Fix It Bob would cannibalize enough parts to make a least one that worked. Barbara, Bob, Jerry, Jim, Kim, Tom also worked on vacuum cleaners, mixers, sewing machines, a “pillow speaker,” typewriters, multiple clocks, several radios including one with “wire chewed by two kittens,” a fan, a curling iron, a VCR/DVD player that “… turned itself on and off,” two convector ovens, a landscaping transformer timer, a five-foot tall metal weather vane with a dog design and a chipped ceramic lion.
Edwin Winstanley glued, clamped and advised customers about repairs to squadrons of vintage wooden chairs, a wooden tray, cabinet door, and a camel saddle/foot stool.
‘A good learning experience’
Even with Steve Carras and my husband, Roger Moss, working flat out for four hours, the line to sharpen knives, a pizza cutter and garden tools, seemed endless. For the first time, we had two jewelry repair experts. Susanne O’Brien and Cathe’ Linton fixed a vintage Sunday school pin “missing its connection and links,” along with enough necklaces, bracelets and earrings to stuff a pirate’s treasure chest.
The sewing crew labored on clothing, including a request to make a “sweater into a cardigan,” as well as a duffle bag, and Meals on Wheels delivery bag with a damaged zipper. The man for whom Raheli Harper let out the waist on a pair of pants, wrote, “very helpful. Showed me how to do some of the job myself – good learning experience.”
Julia, one of our student volunteers, brought a jacket with a broken zipper to Deanne: “Amazing! Looks like it was always there! Dad approved! LOL!”
Carol Pinkowski helped a woman who brought in a pillow that she “started making and got confused.”
Liz, wife of coach Tom Bonita, confined to a wheel chair with a broken foot, used her hand-sewing skills to repair mittens and soft toys. A young woman brought her a tiny brown dog whose fabric nose had been damaged when her live dog used it as a chew toy. The girl’s parents had placed the toy in their infant daughter’s incubator years ago and it held great sentimental value. As Cathe’ Linton says, “Everything that comes in here has a life. We are not just fixing items … we are repairing souls.”
We had several new coaches. Jared Pietrzak, a recent WV high school grad, who has built computers and a drone as well as repaired electronics and 3-D printers, volunteered to tackle touch screen tablets/ computers and lamps. He’s headed off to college in September, but I hope he’ll drop in again when his schedule permits.
Lee Luce, wife of coach Jim, who took the great photos for the newspaper articles, volunteered to manage the Kids’ Take It Apart Table. The boys and girls had never seen a rotary phone before, but when they got it apart, one boy had a grand time ringing the bells with a screwdriver. Lee said that the girls “instinctively knew which size screw driver would fit, but the boys liked to employ brute force.”
She’s looking for radio donations for the Sept. 16 café.
Bike repairs, too
Dave West, Energy Management Supervisor locksmith for the Shenendehowa Central School District, drove down all the from Clifton Park to join the electrical repair coaches in preparation for opening a café in his neck of the woods. He enjoyed working on a music box shaped like a traditional Alpine chalet.
Richard White of Warwick inaugurated the bike repair department – adjusted brakes, gears, seats - which had several happy customers.
As a token of appreciation for “all the time that the Ms./Mr. Fixers spend helping with repairs,” customer Elfrede Vulpone of Greenwood Lake donated a hand-crocheted red, white and blue blanket to be raffled off to help offset café expenses. Barb Smith of Warwick was thrilled to be the winner.
Between the raffle tickets and donations, we collected $425.92. We spent $50 on pizza and $75 for bike parts. We will need to restock the lamp/bike parts before the next café.

Elizabeth Knight Moss is one of the key organizers of the Repair Cafe in Warwick. Contact her at 845-544-1056 or to volunteer or for more information.