Columbia Springs is well known for having a beautiful location, where anyone can take some time to enjoy nature in their own city. We have a nationally recognized Science and Nature Field Trip Program, standing out as a top performer for engaging kids of all kinds in feeling successful as scientists, and in developing a life-long connection to the outdoors. Columbia Springs is a place to find belonging. We bring Coho salmon to over 50 schools in Clark County so that students can steward an important keystone species for the Pacific Northwest, and the people who have lived here since time immemorial. We have a summer Nature Day Camp series, and Family Nature Days, and endless opportunities to engage in stewardship, volunteering, and community well-being. What a lot of people don’t realize is that we also have an incredible Repair program.
Repair is one of our most accessible programs. It allows anyone to bring in an item to be fixed by volunteers – for free. No strings attached. Now you might be asking: Why do we do this? And HOW do we do this?
The program is funded almost entirely by a grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology through their Public Participation Grant funding. This allows us to have a full-time staff member who is dedicated to all things Repair, which is unique among repair programs regionally. This grant funding gives our Repair Program Coordinator, Terra, the capacity to organize over two hundred volunteer fixers, and connect them with the literal thousands of items they work on each year (through both in person and remote events). Terra is excellent at reaching people where they’re at, recognizing their talents, and connecting people to opportunities for shared success.
While doing our part to recycle waste products from our every day lives matters, it is a very small part of solution for a systemic problem. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States produces over 290 million tons of garbage each year. A good portion of that is from broken household items that are discarded.
Toaster doesn’t work? To get it repaired at an appliance shop might cost over $40, but you can buy a new one at a big box store for $20. See the problem? Repair gives people the opportunity to be more self-reliant, and to make meaningful connections to the things they have. Our program will fix the item for you, or you can learn how to fix it on your own – a valuable and transferrable skill set.
One of the most impressive things about the Repair Clark County events is the variety of both people and items that come in. The program is a great equalizer across a variety of political, socioeconomic, and cultural beliefs held by participants. Some participants come because they are being mindful of their wallet – this economy is tough, and it can be a big help to fix an item rather than spend money on something new. Some participants come because of conservation practices: to reduce waste and the consumption of resources for making new items. Some people come for more sentimental reasons: their friends or family are volunteers in the program, or because they have a personally meaningful item that they can’t part with.
Repair is an act of stewardship and independence. It empowers people to save money, to feel connected to something bigger, and to do their part in making smart investments with the resources used in their home.
Starting in 2023 the program will resume holding in person events – our first event happened in January. These in person events will take place during the odd months of the year throughout Clark County. A good general guideline to remember: any item brought in for repair must be easily carried by one person. We will continue to partner with the Fort Vancouver Regional Library system to hold remote, drop-off events at library branches throughout the County in the even months of the year. You can check out the schedule for upcoming events HERE. There are many opportunities to get items repaired throughout the year. We hope to see you soon!