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Repair Clark County Program Coordinator Terra Heilman inspects a vintage lamp and discusses possible repairs with a client at the most recent drop off event.

Repair Clark County, an extension of local non-profit Columbia Springs, recently restarted its repair program with a few new twists. 

Instead of hosting an event where locals show up with broken appliances, torn clothes and more, Repair Clark County now hosts two “drop off” days a month with their “Repair Goes Remote” program. 

On the second and fourth Tuesday of the month, those with items in disrepair can drop them off at Columbia Springs (12208 SE Evergreen Highway, Vancouver) to be fixed over time. According to Repair Clark County Coordinator Terra Heilman, the change to the program is going better than she ever could have imagined. 

Heilman said the program has fixed and returned 53 items to people since it went remote earlier this month, and the program has an 89 percent repair rate on items. 

“Our fixers are amazing,” Heilman said. “They’re so incredibly impressive with their skills.” 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Repair Clark County would host events around Clark County. At the events, community members could bring household items such as toasters, clothing, lamps and more to be fixed in about 30 or so minutes. Now that COVID-19 is shaping the lives of many around the world, Heilman thought it was time to bring the repair program back in a safe and distanced way. Instead of everyone coming to one place, those needing an item fixed drop their item off for it to be fixed over the next two weeks by a volunteer. 

Heilman said many volunteers miss the social impact of the community events but appreciate the extra time to work on items. 

“Instead of fixing items in a 20- to 30-minute window, our fixers can now go at their own pace and work on their own timeline,” she said. “They still have the option to not spend more than 30 minutes on an item but most decide to keep going with an item.” 

Heilman said the volunteers also like the new process because they get to choose the projects they work on. According to Heilman, Repair Clark County has about 10 to 15 volunteers working though the “Repair Goes Remote” phase, and volunteers can work on a multitude of different objects. Items that are off limits for repair include gas engines, microwaves and anything a single person could not carry. 

“Something you bring has to be easily carried by one person,” she said, explaining that objects need to be carried up and down flights of stairs. 

Along with these limitations, Heilman said anyone wishing to get an item fixed must pre register the items with Columbia Springs and Repair Clark County online at bit.ly/366FFTo in order for it to be eligible for drop off. Heilman said the registration is free but an “important part” of the program as it helps volunteers and staff contact those with items as well as letting the community know if any drop off events need to be rescheduled due to weather or other events. 

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A client of the Repair Clark County program smiles after getting their item fixed by volunteers.

Because the program relies on volunteers, Heilman said anyone wishing to help out can email her at repair@columbiasprings.org. Heilman said the program is specifically looking for volunteers to help run events like the item drop off in the future. 

As for why she works with Repair Clark County and its goal to repair items in the community, Heilman said that she has been working in waste reduction for nearly her entire adult career and being as sustainable as possible is important to her. 

“We’re able to keep stuff out of the landfill and we’re keeping people from having to purchase something new,” she said.

The goal of resource conservation is why the program falls under the Columbia Springs umbrella of operations. Started in the late 1990s, the nonprofit works to educate, inform and help people be eco-conscious citizens. Heilman explained that keeping items for as long as possible and not buying everything new all the time has a large impact on the planet because of the resources it takes to create new items.  

“It’s more helpful to the planet to keep things working,” she said, mentioning a few exceptions like old and inefficient refrigerators. “Repair is a conservation of resources.”

While Heilman is happy with the success of the drop off program, she mentioned she was excited to get events started back up once restrictions around COVID-19 pandemic lift. Because Columbia Springs is located in East Vancouver, many residents of North Clark County and the surrounding areas may not be able to make it out to the campus for the drop off. Heilman said bringing events back to the Battle Ground Community Center is one of their first goals. 

“We’re anxious to get back to the way we used to do things,” she said. “I think we can service more people in that way.”

However, while events will become a mainstay of the Repair Clark County Program again in the future, Heilman said the program might keep a few ideas from the remote program, mainly the preregistration of items. 

The “Repair Goes Remote” program is already scheduled to run into the first quarter of 2021, with a possible extension. For more information about Repair Clark County and a calendar of upcoming events, visit columbiasprings.org/events/repair-clark-county/.

 

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