King County free repair events keep your stuff out of the landfill

Aug 6, 2019, 11:45 AM
King County repair event...
Paul Savino (left) and his son Paul Savino II volunteer at every King County free repair event (photo by Rachel Belle)
(photo by Rachel Belle)

At the Shoreline Library last week, Paul Savino II took an old, wooden chair apart.

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“I am destroying this chair with the intention of putting it back together, eventually,” he described.

Gail Ichinaga patched up a ripped pair of pants and Jimmy Nguyen was hunched over a laptop.

“I am replacing a mousepad and making sure it functions on a MacBook Pro,” said Nguyen.

These are scenes from a free repair event sponsored by the King County Solid Waste Division. It puts on 15 to 20 events a year at various libraries and community centers. A hundred-and-five people turned up in Shoreline with broken lamps and Crockpots, punctured pool floaties and clothing that needed mending.

Fourteen skilled volunteers were on hand, with their own tools and sewing machines, ready to work on 84 items in need of repair. The goal is to give these items new life and keep them out of a landfill.

Paul Savino II and his dad, Paul Savino Sr., volunteer together at most of the repair events.

“We work together so well, it’s like one brain with four hands,” Paul Sr. said.

He was dressed in a tie-dye T-shirt with yellow suspenders designed to look like yardsticks.

“I am a retired chemistry professor and I make my own shirts.”

From a young age, Paul Sr. taught his son how to fix and repurpose things, to build things from scratch and use tools.

“I can sharpen tools — I’m about to sharpen this lawnmower,” Paul Sr. said. “I can fix jewelry, shoes, furniture.”

“Anything that is cracked or broken or needs glue,” Paul II chimed in. “I’ve been a podiatrist, an optometrist, a luthier — which is a guitar maker — and a reupholsterer within one afternoon.”

Their most unusual fix?

“We fixed a rabbit,” said Paul II. “A wonderful young lady came to my father with hopes that we could perhaps make some sort of device to help her rabbit who did not have use of its back legs. I have a 3D printer at the school I teach at, and so I designed and built a wheelchair for a rabbit that worked. It’s really, really, really weird. It’s not something we typically fix, but can we do it? Sure, why not.”

So many of the things we buy today are disposable. When your $25 blender stops working, do you repair it or throw it away? Where could you even have it repaired? Some new products are built in a way that makes them unrepairable. This event was designed to keep things out of the landfill, but it also allows people to keep the things they love and save some money.

Back to Nguyen, the IT fix-it guy.

“Seeing someone leave this place happy, knowing that I made a difference in their life, makes me happy. These repairs I do usually costs a customer $200 to $300.”

I brought a sleeping bag with a broken zipper and handed it to Kathryn Eytcheson, one of the volunteer seamstresses. Eytcheson is a retiree with a collection of county fair blue ribbons she won for quilting. She volunteers at every event.

“It gives my life purpose,” Eytcheson said. “When you’re retired you have lots of time.”

Generally, the volunteers fix 80 percent of the items people bring in. That day I was part of the 20 percent that don’t get fixed.

“Zippers are the hardest thing,” Eytcheson said.

One woman brought in a vintage blouse that needed careful mending. She sat across from Ichinaga and her sewing machine, chatting while she stitched. I watched them stand up and hug, and asked her if they were friends.

“No, I just met her here and she did such a beautiful job, and she’s so sweet.”

Click here to find upcoming free repair events in King County.

Rachel Belle

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King County free repair events keep your stuff out of the landfill