Columbia Springs’ free Repair Clark County program adapts to pandemic to continue to serve community


They invite members of the public to bring broken household items to be repaired, for free, by volunteer ‘fixers’

VANCOUVER — Columbia Springs, the nonprofit that runs the Repair Clark County program, recently announced a free drop-off repair program for most household goods. They invite members of the public to bring broken household items to be repaired, for free, by volunteer “fixers.” 

Sewing projects, such as this small tear in a jacket, can be repaired by volunteers in the Repair Goes Remote program. Photo courtesy of Columbia Springs
Sewing projects, such as this small tear in a jacket, can be repaired by volunteers in the Repair Goes Remote program. Photo courtesy of Columbia Springs

• What: Repair Goes Remote pilot, where you can bring your broken household items to be fixed, for free. All items must be pre-registered before drop off. Visit repairclarkcounty.org for more information. 

• When: 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month in 2020, 4-6 p.m.

Where: Columbia Springs, 12208 SE Evergreen Highway, Vancouver, WA 

“How can we continue to serve the community while also keeping our volunteers safe?” This is the question Repair Clark County program coordinator, Terra Heilman, has been asking herself since February. Along with most of the rest of the world, the program has been severely impacted by the global pandemic. 

“We have volunteers who are eager to serve and miss the interaction with the community that our program provides…while we can’t do much about the latter, we can address the former.” says Heilman.

The free repair program regularly brings in 100-plus people to public events across the county. Skilled volunteer “fixers” attempt to repair broken items such as appliances, electronics, and sewing projects. The program has had to implement many safety protocols including pre-registering items and creating appointment times for clients in order to still serve the community with skills such as knife sharpening. 

“We’ve been able to offer a few drive-through type events, but only certain skills have worked well for that.” Heilman says. 

Enter the Repair Goes Remote pilot

Community members drop off items and volunteers attempt the repairs at home on their own time. Then, 2 weeks later, clients can come and pick up their repaired items. “We’re very excited to see how well this has been received,’’ Heilman said. “We think it’s a great solution, even if it’s fairly different than how we would normally operate.”

So, what can you bring to be fixed? The rules of thumb for Repair Clark County are items that are small enough to be easily carried by one person, no gas engines and no microwaves. 

This lamp was recently rewired by a volunteer in the Repair Goes Remote program. Photo courtesy of Columbia Springs
This lamp was recently rewired by a volunteer in the Repair Goes Remote program. Photo courtesy of Columbia Springs

“Pretty much anything else is fair game.” says Heilman. “Right now, because these items have to be stored and transported, the size rule is even more important and sadly, we can’t work with bikes right now because of this. But, broken appliances, sewing projects, broken jewelry-we will take a look at almost anything and at least give it a try!” 

The program has a high success rate, with 80-90 percent of items submitted being repaired. “I’m continuously impressed by the abilities of our fixers. They are truly remarkable. I’m honored to work with them and excited to get back to work!” concludes Heilman. 

All items must be pre-registered by visiting repairclarkcounty.org and clicking through to the registration form. Registration takes about a minute for each item and is free. The program info also has a calendar of drop off/pick up times through the remainder of 2020. 

About Columbia Springs

Columbia Springs, founded in 2001, provides tens of thousands of children and their families the opportunity to fall in love with nature. The organization continues to build a community of life-long learners and land stewards through educational opportunities, walking trails, events and workshops.

Located on a 100-acre natural area in the city of Vancouver, Columbia Springs is dedicated to providing outdoor recreation and science education close to home. The Repair Clark County program offers free fixing events, repair skills workshops and other waste reduction programming throughout Clark County. 

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