Repair is a Process

Aug 15 cafe wide shot

bike fixers

On the morning of Saturday August 22, Repair Cafe visited Central Neighbourhood House on Ontario Street. We were received by the welcoming staff who helped us set up in their colorful gymnasium. The space was transformed into a repair cafe with the different stations marked with signage. A bike repair station was set up outside the entrance. As it got closer to the noon start time, volunteer fixers steadily rolled in with their toolkits and prepared their own worktables while the event volunteers at the registration table kept the lineup of visitors moving smoothly to their assigned fixers.

Throughout the four hours, visitors continued bringing in all kinds of items, including laptops, lamps, clothes, jewellery, books, bikes, among others. Every volunteer was busy with helping the visitors. Many visitors were happy as their items got fixed, including those in the photos below. More ”Fixed!” photos are being posted on our Facebook page.

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Paul with visitor on umbrella

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We have been asking our fixers to share with us the tools they use. At this Café, Pauline and Aaron were interviewed. Pauline is specialized in fixing jewellery items and Aaron is skilled at repairing appliance items. You can meet them and learn about their favourite tool by visiting our Videos page.

As in every Café, our dedicated fixers work hard to help the visitors with every single item. Both our visitors and fixers often tell us that one of the things they enjoy is not just getting something fixed, but the repair process itself. The process brings alive values that are important in building a sustainable and caring community  – learning, collaboration, mending. Repair is a learning process in which the owner of the item learns about the item’s components, how they work, and how to troubleshoot. Repair is a collaboration process in which the fixer and visitor work together to share and create knowledge about repairing. Repair is also a mending process in which our volunteers and visitors spread the spirit of kindness and generosity in the community. Michelle, one of our visitors said it well in her survey form, “Repair – great, learning – awesome, connectivity to community – priceless.” We are glad that our Repair Café community embraces these values.

We would like to thank all the volunteers who helped make this another successful event! Our fixers, event volunteers, bakers! A special thanks to Eduardo who made and provided the bounty of cinnamon rolls. And a big thank-you to Central Neighbourhood House. We are grateful for the wonderful sponsorship of Daniel et Daniel for the pastries as well as McCray Optical Supply Inc. for the donations of eyeglass hardware.

group shot with CNH

Photographs by Lon Appleby and Heather Ramsay

If you are interested in sponsoring or volunteering with the Repair Café, we would love to hear from you. We can be reached at

In response to the increasing demand for Repair Café, we will be offering two events in September,  one on the 12th and the other on the 26th. We look forward to visiting two new Toronto Public Library branches this fall. For details, please visit the Upcoming Events page. We hope to see you at Repair Cafe!

The Bell Rings at Repair Café

Video by Lon Appleby

On Saturday, July 18, the Repair Café was back at Skills for Change for our monthly event. We opened at 10 a.m and were happy to see returning visitors as well as many new ones. We had a great turnout of volunteers again. Our fixers tackled all kinds of items: small appliances, computers, jewellery, clothes, bikes, book and paper repairs, and more. Three rooms were busy as always and you could feel the positive energy of the fixers and visitors working together, spending as long as it took on each item to ensure it was repaired or at the very least effectively diagnosed. 

This month, we had a little something else as well. From time to time, you could hear a bell ring, which signaled that a successful repair had just been made. Two of our fixers, Tom and Tim, suggested the idea and brought their bells in to celebrate with everyone each new repair, however big or small, and the collaboration that occurs in the process.

Watch this video above in which Tom introduces the tools he brought to Repair Café this month. You’ll also have a chance to hear the sound of his special bell. For the event photos, please visit our Facebook page.

We would like to thank all the fixers and event volunteers sincerely for your help. And a big thank-you to the generosity of our long-time sponsors, Skills for Change and Frank’s Pizza House.


Looking ahead….

The Repair Café joins the Regent Park festival on Sunday August 9. We will have a table set up from 12 to 3 pm with sewing repairs available. Thanks to the support of our wonderful sewing fixers, Sue and Christine.

For our August’s monthly café and the other events, please visit the Upcoming Events page for details.

If you are interested in sponsoring or volunteering with the Repair Cafe, we would love to hear from you. We can be reached at

Repair Café at Elmbank Community Centre – Bring it on!

Video by Lon Appleby

On Saturday, June 20, Repair Café visited the Elmbank Community Centre in Rexdale. This was our first visit to the north-western part of the city. In spite of the longer distance, our enthusiastic volunteers travelled from different corners of the city to join us for this event. On the same day, the community centre was also hosting a flea market in their parking lot, so it was a busy day for the neighbourhood.

Once again, our skilled fixers tackled everything, you name it: lawn-mower, lamp, toaster, fan, shredder, flashlight, chair, sewing machine, umbrella, zipper, scarf, pillow case, bag, pants, necklace, book, computer, bicycle, shovel, even more.  For each of these items, our fixer explained to the visitor how the repair was done, so the visitor could do the repair themselves if it broke again. On our Facebook page, you can see photos of the items.

The video above shows the successful repair of a vacuum cleaner. Bill, a visitor from the community who had heard about Repair Café and arrived early with his wife, brought his vacuum cleaner which had been broken for more than a year. In the video, Ed, one of our appliance fixers, explains what caused the vacuum cleaner to stop working and what needed to be done. Ed shows Bill how to fix the vacuum cleaner himself. Enjoy the sound of the vacuum and Bill’s blowing hair!

Many thanks to the fixers and event volunteers for another great event. We would like to thank Elmbank Community Centre for your invitation and the support of your helpful staff. Thanks to local MP Kirsty Duncan and Deputy Mayor Vincent Crisanti for stopping by. And a big thank you to Domino’s for your generous donation of pizzas.

The Repair Café will be back to Skills for Change on July 18. For details, please visit the Upcoming Events page.

Repair Café is Inspiration!

1 up_Cake cutting Anniversary

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0 - Repair Cafe by Anne Winter

Photographs #1-3, #5-6 by Lon Appleby
Photograph #4 (two young girls with microscope) by Heather Rampsay
Photograph #7 (“Repair Café”) by Anne Winter

Repair Café is going strong at its two-year mark. On Saturday, May 23, we were back at Skills for Change for our second anniversary event. In addition to our regular Repair Café, we had a special art show given by artist Anne Winter and a BBQ celebration in the afternoon with the volunteers, visitors, friends and guests. Thanks to everyone for making it another great event! A big thank-you to Skills for Change for providing a terrific venue. Joe Mihevc, City Councillor, and Annette Synowiec, Solid Waste Management Services, at the City of Toronto joined us as well. Thanks Joe and Annette for dropping by on this special day.

Not so long ago, a small group of volunteers came together to offer its first Repair Café at Skills for Change in Toronto. Twenty-two monthly cafes later, it was wonderful to see that our volunteer team has grown to more than 100, and so has the number of visitors. So what is the magic behind the success of the Repair Café? Here is a short video that was made last year in which a visitor, Gloria, captured this magic early on in her first experience with the Repair Café.

We would like to thank all our volunteers, including fixers, greeters, guides, bakers, photographers, videographers, communication specialists and event organizers. Through your commitment and enthusiasm in the last two years, you have made the Repair Café an inspiring and welcoming place. We would also like to thank all the visitors for joining the repair movement. As well, we would like to thank all our sponsors and partners, in particular, Frank’s Pizza House, Skills for Change and Toronto Public Library for your continued support!

Repair Café is looking for volunteers and sponsors to join us grow the Repair Café initiative. If you are interested in getting involved, please feel free to contact us at

In the coming months, Repair Café will continue to reach out to the different neighbourhoods. For the upcoming café on June 20, we will be in Rexdale at Elmbank Community Centre from 12 to 4 pm. You can find out more details in the Upcoming Events page. Please help us spread the word. Hope to see you there!



What a Blast!

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Video and photograph by Lon Appleby

On Saturday April 18, Repair Café returned to one of our favourite locations, the Toronto Reference Library (TRL). We arrived early in the morning to set up with Dawn at TRL and it wasn’t long before Elizabeth Beeton Auditorium was transformed into a Repair Café space functioning as a repair workshop that offered a variety of repair stations as well as a cafe for people to relax with a coffee and chat with each other.

An hour before we opened, a lineup of people with items to repair had already formed. Our team of general volunteers were busy receiving the visitors and directing them to their fixers. A big shout out to our general volunteers who helped make every visitor feel welcome and kept the flow of visitors in good order! They serve as the “needles” that weave the “threads” of the Café’s fabric together. They include the “greeters” at Registration, the “guides” who put visitors into queues and bring them to their fixers, as well as the photographers and social media volunteers who capture the happy moments when the items are fixed and promote the event through social media. The general volunteers also include those who set up and look after the snack table and deliver the pizza lunch.

Over the course of four hours, our team of 30 dedicated fixers met with a constant stream of visitors who brought in a variety of household items, from laptops and lamps to jeans and necklaces. Our book fixers repaired a few books, including a 1951 atlas. You can see the video above to learn about how our Andy and Faith mended the special book. More event photos will be available on our Facebook page soon.

This April Café was a blast. You could feel the positive energy from everyone. We had an excellent turnout of visitors who came from local neighbourhoods and outside the City of Toronto. To our terrific team of fixers and general volunteers, we cannot thank them enough for their enthusiasm, generosity and professionalism!

We would like to thank the Toronto Reference Library for their continued support in providing us with an uplifting space where broken items have been given new lives and diverted from landfill. Through our collaboration, we have shown our shared commitment to building a diverse and inclusive community.

And of course we thank our sponsors, Balzac’s Coffee and Frank’s Pizza, for their longstanding support. And a special thank you to Humewood Coffee Group and the volunteers and visitors who donated the delicious snacks.

Next month will be our second anniversary! We will be back at Skills for Change on May 23 for the 22nd monthly Café. This special Café will be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will be followed by a BBQ celebration party with our volunteers and guests. For details, please refer to the Upcoming Events page.

We are looking for volunteers of all kinds, including general volunteers, graphic designers and fixers. We are also looking for sponsors. If you are interested, please contact us at

The Repair Café Hits Another Record!

wooden blinds correct

Video and photograph by Lon Appleby

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Photograph by Heather Ramsay and Lon Appleby

On March 21, we were back at Skills for Change in the St. Clair West neighbourhood. We hit a record high number of visitors this time! The first visitor arrived with a broken blender an hour before we opened. Another followed shortly after with baked snacks made by his wife, and so it went. By the time our doors were open, the seats along the walls around the fixers were filled with people from the neighbourhood and beyond, clutching their items and chatting with each other on a warm Saturday morning.

Many thanks to our fixers and volunteers, who were busy throughout the four hours. We were glad to have a list of people signing up to volunteer. Two visitors even rolled up their sleeves to start volunteering as fixers when they saw that we needed more hands to help.

Once again, our fixers worked their magic and repaired all kinds of interesting items, including the wooden blinds showed in the video above. For more event photos, please visit our Facebook page.

We would like to thank our sponsors, Skills for Change and Frank’s Pizza House, for your generous donations. A big thanks to our wonderful bakers Humewood Coffee Group.

Don’t miss our next Repair Café on April 18. We’ll be at Toronto Reference Library. For details, please visit the Upcoming Events page.

Repair Café at HackLab – Awesome Collaboration!

Video by Lon Appleby

Our monthly Repair Café on February 21 was a Saturday that started with heavy snow. But the broken streetcars and slow traffic didn’t hamper the enthusiasm of our volunteers and visitors. Within half an hour, the HackLab was filled with people. This short video above was taken when we were half way into this four-hour event. You can get a sense of the action yourself just by watching it!

Below is a small sample of the many positive comments we received about our collaboration at the Repair Café.

“I knew it was going to be great. But this (event) was even better than I expected!” said Alex, who volunteered for the first time as a guide.

“I fixed this vacuum cleaner, which had presented a tough problem, but was solved by multiple heads and hands!” said John, our appliance fixer, who brought his brother to volunteer for this café.

“Today’s café was in a smaller space. But I needed and got a specialized electronic part for testing from the HackLab which wouldn’t be available in an ordinary location,” said Paul, an electronics fixer.

“I learned new things from talking to other fixers while working on the laptop together.” smiled Derek, a first-time volunteer, who is a computer professional.

Our dedicated team of fixers worked hard in helping our many visitors. The following photo was taken an hour after the event. Our fixers and HackLab were still working together on a motherboard!

 Collaboration at HackLab

Fixing a motherboard

We are thankful for the continued support of our wonderful volunteers. It is great to have new volunteers joining our team. We are also grateful to have our long-time volunteers who have been helping the Repair Café since our early days in 2013. They are the true enduring force behind the success of each Repair Café. Below are Robert and Judy, two of the amazing volunteers we are lucky to have.

Robert and Judy

Many thanks to our host and collaborator HackLab for the terrific space and snacks and most importantly for sharing your great creativity with our team. We would like to thank Frank’s Pizza House for your generous donation of pizzas and also Humewood Coffee Group and Rustic Cosmo Café for your wonderful baked goods.

If you missed the February Repair Café, our next one is March 21. We will be back at Skills for Change. Please refer to the Upcoming Events page. Hope to see you there!



Highest Number of Volunteers

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Photograph by Lon Appleby

It seems that with every Repair Café, we reach another milestone. On January 17, the first Repair Café this year, we occupied the largest number of rooms at Skills for Change. Also, we had the highest number of volunteers showing up and helping out for the day.

This time, we had four rooms: one used for registration, one for appliance and household repairs, one for clothes and jewellery repairs, and the fourth one for computer and book repairs. We were so full that our photo booth had to be set up in a hallway to free up space for the repair stations!

We had 49 volunteers for this café, including 33 fixers, 3 apprentices, and other volunteers who provided general support from welcoming visitors to taking photos. We had both old and new volunteers, and more people signing up as volunteers. A big thanks to all the volunteers!  Numerous visitors came to us saying that the Repair Café was really a fantastic idea and that our volunteers were very helpful and kind. One of our visitors named Lecia brought a broken microwave oven and she told us her Repair Café experience in this one and a half minute video.

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Buttons Design by Marie Minas         Photograph by Lon Appleby

We would like to thank Skills for Change for providing the wonderful space for us.
As well, we sincerely thank Bakers of Humewood Coffee Group who made the delicious snacks for everyone!

We will be back at Skills for Change in March. Don’t miss February’s café at
HackLab. It will be held on February 21, from 12 noon to 4 pm. For details, please go to Upcoming Events page. Hope to see you there!

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Photograph by Jung-Hee Ban

Repair Café – 1,200 Visitors Later

2014 year end team photoPhotograph by Heather Ramsay

November 22 was our last Repair Café of the year. We had one of the highest turnouts of both volunteers and visitors, and once again our terrific volunteers made it another successful event. Thank you for a great 2014!

Above is our team photo taken after the November event. More event photos have been posted on our Facebook page and you can really feel the “Repair Café energy” that people tell us they love about the events. As well, a new Video section has just been added to our website. You can meet a few of our fixers and learn about the experiences of our visitors.

When a small group of us started the first repair café in Toronto a year and a half ago, we asked ourselves: Will we be able to find enough volunteers to spend their weekend helping others fix broken items? Will people be interested in repairing? Will the initial enthusiasm die down?

Well, a year and a half later, any doubts we had are now replaced by a growing certainty that we have launched something very special and important for the city. We have achieved some significant results we can all be proud of:

  • Established a team of volunteers with 52 active members
  • Offered 17 monthly repair cafes in 5 various neighbourhoods
  • Delivered 3 repair workshops in different locations
  • Extended the life of more than 1,000 household items, diverting them from landfill
  • Taught more than 1,200 people to repair their broken items
  • Gained support from 13 community organizations and businesses
  • Offered the first “How to Start a Repair Café” workshop
  • Helped launch repair cafés in four other locations in Canada

The facts speak for themselves. There is a proven desire in our city to change the throwaway mindset. We are helping to build Toronto as a sustainable city by reducing needless waste, empowering people to learn and use repair skills, and fostering a caring community through personal actions.

We have been delighted to collaborate with many local organizations and businesses, and we thank our volunteers for their kindness, generosity and professionalism.  We are grateful to all our sponsors: Skills for Change, Toronto Public Library, Frank’s Pizza House, Noir Coffee and Tea, Toronto Tool Library, Balzac’s Coffee Roasters, Starbucks, Circles and Squares Bakery, Pizza Pizza, So Much Into Cup Cakes, Leah’s, Toronto Clothing Repairathon, and Danforth East Community Association.

A big thanks to other supporting organizations and individuals for their help in spreading the word! And of course we thank all the visitors who brought us their repair challenges and filled our donation box.

In this new year, the Repair Café is looking forward to reaching out to more neighbourhoods, and we are planning other events as well. To receive news on the latest events, you are welcome to join our mailing list by entering your name and email address in the form on the right of the home page. You can also become part of the repair café movement by joining our volunteer team or sponsoring our cafés. We can be reached by email at Our next café is on January 17 at Skills for Change. Hope to see you there.

Happy New Year!

Wherever We Go…

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No matter where we go, Repair Café always connects with the community. On October 18, we went east to Cedarbrae Public Library in Scarborough. And we saw parents, we saw children, we saw elderly people, students, and people from all walks of life, who stopped by with everything from computer hard drives and radios to jackets and books. The diversity of Scarborough was well represented. Once again, the success of the event was the result of a group of great volunteers coming together who want to help others gain repair skills. Thank you, everyone – greeters, fixers, bakers, photographers, and the visitors who filled the donation box! For more event photos, please visit our Facebook page.

We would also like to thank the Cedarbrae Public Library for giving us their space and for their wonderful support for this event. A big thank you to the generosity of our sponsors: So Into Cupcakes, Pizza Pizza and Noir Coffee and Tea.

Our next Repair Café is on November 22. This will also be the last one this year. We will be back to our base at Skills for Change. For details, please refer to the Upcoming Events page. Hope to see you there!