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Last weekend we made a road trip to Minneapolis to attend a fix-it clinic at the Keewaydin Rec Center. Our mission was part research and part toaster repair, and happily, we accomplished both.

Hennepin county hosts the fix-it clinics in rec centers throughout Minneapolis and its suburbs, and since we knew we wanted to host a fix-it clinic of our own, we wanted to check things out and see how they do it. We entered the room in the rec center where the fix-it clinic is held, and were greeted at a welcome table. They asked us what type of item we had, had us weight it on a scale, and had us sign a waiver. Then, a volunteer yelled across the room “This is Chris and he has a broken toaster that got wet. Toaster plus water!” Across the room, a hand shot up and another volunteer came to help us. We sat across from him at his table with his tools, including a soldering iron and a roll of solder. We described what happened to the toaster (we cleaned it with polish and got part of the electronic components wet, and thought it shorted out), and he gave us advice and helped us fix it.

Throughout the room, similar scenarios played out at different tables. Plastic folding tables filled the room in three rows, with a volunteer and a box of tools at each, with disassembled items spread out before them. In the back row, three sewing machines hummed for items that needed more mending than fixing. Next to them, a volunteer worked on a broken sewing machine.

Each time an item was successfully repaired, the owner could ring a cowbell as they left, celebrating the number of items fixed that day. Our toaster made it through to live another day, and we got to ring the bell on our way out. After it was fixed, we wandered up and down the rows of tables to check everything out and snoop on other peoples’ repairs. Then we took the opportunity to pick the brains of the organizers.

We had a lot of fun and got an idea of how a fix-it clinic can be done. Unfortunately, one thing we did realize after this excursion was that our idea of trying to host a fix-it clinic in June was a little too optimistic. Since we’re expecting a baby at the end of July, June is pretty busy, and a major commitment in July or August is out of the question. So, we’ve moved our target date for the fix-it clinic to the fall. Although we are under no illusion that we will have any more time after the baby’s born, we do think that planning our first clinic for the fall will give us adequate time to plan it and make it the best it can be.

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