Philanthropy beat: Hennepin Fix-It Clinics need volunteers

 

If you can troubleshoot repairs for broken household items such as lamps or computers or even curling irons, the Hennepin County Fix-It Clinic wants you.

Each month, a group of handy volunteers helps folks who show up at the clinics with their broken gems. Volunteers teach them to repair the items and send them on their way, rescuing one more object from a landfill and often saving the owner some serious cash.

“A lot of people who come to the clinics have never used a screwdriver or a volt meter before,” said Nancy Lo, coordinator of the clinics, now marking their first anniversary.

“We need volunteers with electronic, electrical and mechanical expertise,” she said. “And if they know how to fix computers, that would be great.”

The clinics run monthly in the Twin Cities and suburbs. The first was launched in Minneapolis last September with 13 volunteers and 15 visitors, said Lo. Now about 20 volunteers help 40 to 60 people each month.

Each clinic brings a different set of challenges.

“In August, people brought in a … globe, two sewing machines, a bread maker, a laptop, a rolling suitcase, a ceramic dog, a stained-glass piece, a rice cooker, a camp stove, a shirt and sweater … ” said Lo, reading a list of 68 objects.

Volunteers offer the owners a screwdriver or other tools, and proceed to dissect the problem. Most people are curious to find out what’s inside their ailing items, said Lo.

“Most don’t know what the inside of a DVD player looks like, because no one has ever opened one before,” she said.

Not everything is fixable, but about three-quarters get a second life, Lo said. Surveys show people are satisfied with the service regardless of the outcome. Said Lo: “They know people have donated their time, they’ve learned something, and it’s fun.”

The next clinic runs noon to 4 on Sept. 14 at the University of Minnesota ReUse Warehouse, at 883 29th Av. SE., Minneapolis. Other clinics are slated for south Minneapolis, Richfield and St. Louis Park. To volunteer or learn more, go to www.hennepin.us/fixitclinic.

Jean Hopfensperger 612 673-4511

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