Columbia Springs’ program Repair Clark County has been paused indefinitely beginning Aug. 11 after not receiving a state grant to help fund their efforts. Columbia Springs Executive Director Katherine Cory added the pause will come to a close when the program’s $60,000 funding budget is achieved through grant funds and fundraising efforts.
What is Repair Clark County
Repair Clark County was designed six years ago by Columbia Springs to provide the community with an option to fix broken items for free.
“It interrupts a waste cycle so that people are not only not throwing things away, but they’re also not buying new and using resources that could otherwise be allocated,” Cory said.
The program teaches people how to repair broken items or has someone fix broken items, such as lamps, small appliances, bicycles and more, themselves.
During COVID, the staff even sewed upwards of 1,500 masks for people who needed them, Cory said.
“We are unique because we had a program that had a paid staff person. A lot of repair programs throughout the region are all entirely volunteer driven,” Cory said.
Why the pause
Over the last six years, Repair Clark County has operated with funding from the Washington state Department of Ecology’s public participation grants, Cory said.
“We applied for that again for this round and were unsuccessful, and that is in large part due to the fact that they received well over, like, two times as many applicants as they had fundings,” Cory explained. “And I think we were the victims of our own success. When you have a program that is successful, sometimes people forget that it’s only successful because it’s funded well … I fully applaud ecology for wanting to help emerging programs out of nonprofits or emerging nonprofits and the things that they want to do.”
Cory added that there’s also a really important role of maintaining and sustaining successful programs. For the last six years, the ecology department did just that by approving the grants. Each year the Columbia Springs program received $60,000 with the majority of that going to the Repair Clark County staff. The $60,000 would go toward benefits and taxes, “things that come out of what it takes to have a staff person,” Cory said. A little bit of it went to buying supplies that were needed for the repairs, but most of the supplies came from donations or through partner organizations, Cory added.
The present state and future
While Repair Clark County is on pause, another grant opportunity is on the horizon.
“[The pause] is indefinite because grant writing and grant funding are unpredictable by nature,” Cory said. “So, we are actively working on getting more funding for this very-needed program, and there is actually another Department of Ecology grant coming up here in September.”
Cory will apply for that grant, which is for waste reduction education.
“Repair Clark County has been so successful in teaching people across the board not only can you kind of be the owner of your thing, like really shepherd and steward something that you own, but also that there are things that you can do that are more than just throwing something away and running to Target and buying something cheap,” Cory explained. “A lot of the things we repair are things that are really easy to repair, or there are things that are maybe not as easy to do, but once you learn the skill, it’s a really good transferable skill.”
Teaching someone how to repair their broken item is what Cory believes is the program’s educational component. She hopes this waste reduction and recycling education grant will be something for which the program qualifies.
Cory is also talking to prospective donors who might be interested in making partial donations as she realizes $60,000 is a heavy lift.
The indefinite pause would come to a close and operations would begin when that $60,000 quota is reached, Cory said.
“Like every nonprofit, we would continue to pursue sustainable funding. What this has taught us is that we really need to continue to diversify where and what kinds of funding we receive so that we can just keep going,” Cory explained. “This program is so important to our community.”
For people who would like to wait for the program to resume, Cory said they should sign up for the mailing list on the website, columbiasprings.org. The website also has a donation page for those interested.
A fundraising event will take place at 5 p.m. Sept. 9 at the ilani casino in Ridgefield. The event, “Hooked on Nature,” will be an evening of food and entertainment. Ticket sales close on Sept. 1 and are available at columbiasprings.org/hooked.