Raise your hand — or a hammer — if you can relate.
That gizmo of yours, whether it be a drill, sewing machine, blender or lamp, doesn’t work. The repair place? They want more money than what you paid to buy it. So, you throw it away.
But Ramsey County officials have another option. Instead of tossing out broken stuff, try fixing it — with a little help from the fix-it clinic.
Since July 2015, Ramsey County has offered the free clinics at sites around the county, including one scheduled for 10:30 a.m. April 29 at the Roseville Library.
With the help of a squadron of volunteer fixers, the goal is to keep those nonworking items out of landfills by making them work again. Even if you have no repair skills, volunteers like Bill and Cory Berschneider can show you how to make simple repairs to items like appliances, clothing and electronics.
“The purpose is trying to help people do it themselves,” Bill Berschneider said, before admitting the fixers often make the repairs.
Fix-it clinics are held about once a month, usually on the fourth Saturday, at places ranging from county libraries to community rooms, said Terese Bordeau, a Ramsey County environmental health specialist who coordinates the program. In all, 55 to 60 people volunteer as fixers, with about 20-24 showing up at each clinic.
While the clinics are free, Bordeau asks that items be small enough to easily carry into the clinic and that people bring tools or parts that might be helpful to fix them.
But Cory Berschneider said most fixers have a plethora of parts and tools they bring to every clinic. Her expertise is sewing, and she has helped fix everything from backpacks to curtains. Her husband, Bill, is a Jack-of-All-Trades, with broken lamps being the most common items he helps disassemble and repair.
Bordeau said Ramsey County got the idea for the clinics from Hennepin County, which started its own fix-it clinics years before. The idea is to reverse the trend of just throwing stuff away, she said. Since its start, the Ramsey Clinic has helped people fix three out of every four items brought in — 828 items in all — keeping 4,800 pounds of stuff out of landfills and incinerators. The program’s annual budget is less than $9,000.
“In this field, we are succeeding if we can just get someone to think about fixing an item, rather than disposing of it,” she said.
Those lessons were ingrained in the Berschneiders, whose parents grew up during the Great Depression, and throwing away non-working items was not an option. They say they grew up tinkering, fixing, taking things apart, only to put them together again.
“You have these skills and you don’t really know you have these skills because you just do it,” Cory Berschneider said about deciding to volunteer. “It’s fun problem-solving.”
Bill Berschneider, who admits he’s frugal and a bit of a pack rat, started volunteering about a year ago, after his daughter saw details about the program.
“She said, ‘Here, Dad, you can do this,’ ” he said, laughing.
In addition to the upcoming one in Roseville, clinics have been scheduled for May 20 at the Rondo Community Outreach Library in St. Paul, June 24 at the Maplewood Library, July 22 at Arc’s Value Village Thrift Store in St. Paul and Aug. 12 at the St. Anthony Community Center in St. Anthony. Call 651-266-1199 or go to ramseyrecycles.com for more information.