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Maple Ridge seniors lend expertise to Repair Cafes

Claude Gamache was one of many local elderly volunteers at March 16 event

Seniors showed up in droves at last weekend’s Repair Cafe as the monthly event series moved over to the Maple Ridge Seniors Centre to help breathe life into an assortment of beloved broken and damaged items.

In addition to repairing all kinds of items, the Repair Cafe volunteers also loaded up a bunch of recycling from the senior residents, saving the elderly locals a trip to the recycling centre, explained Repair Cafe organizer Leanne Koehn.

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge Repair Cafe records busiest day ever

Not only were seniors showing up with their broken possessions in tow, but there were also plenty of older volunteers on hand to help repair items.

One of these senior volunteers was Claude Gamache, who explained he’s been involved with Repair Cafe events in Maple Ridge since the very start and has lost track of just how many he’s done.

“The first one was right here seven years ago,” said Gamache.

Instead of focusing on a certain type of repairs, Gamache said he does a bit of everything, which he credits to the diverse work he did during his career.

“I started off on the end of a shovel digging for the plumbers in 1970ish. Then they asked me if I wanted to be an apprentice and I went into my apprenticeship and became a plumber,” said Gamache.

“In the 1980s, the economy dropped off, so I worked for a propane company for 20 years up north in the Yukon. I got to fix everyone’s heating appliances and whatever else came along because the company sold fridges, stoves, you know it, they’d bring it to me and I’d fix it and send it back out.”

Eventually, Gamache moved away from the propane business and transitioned into construction for a few years.

“The last job I worked on was the Abbotsford hospital,” he said.

The last seven years of his career were spent as a gas inspector before he finally retired in 2013.

“I still tinker at home. I build things, and fix trucks and tractors,” said Gamache.

“I’m into fixing things. I get great joy out of bringing life back to something that’s broken.”

Out of all the Repair Cafe events he’s been a part of, Gamache has come across a wide array of items, but one in particular stood out in his mind as a unique find.

“A lady brought in a chrome or silver mandolin and it had a music box inside,” he explained. “I took it apart and said, ‘Did you know there’s a decanter in here?’ and she had no idea. There was a bottle in there with a cap on it so you could play tunes and drink.”

READ ALSO: Bottle drive for Operation Christmas Child in Maple Ridge

One of the many other seniors who lent a helping hand at the most recent Repair Cafe was Sheila Pratt.

Pratt is one of several seniors who specialize in sewing repairs and fixes a variety of quilts and fabric items that come through the Repair Cafe events.

Although she never sought out sewing as a profession, Pratt guessed that she has been doing it for approximately 70 years.

“I started when I was in school and I’ve just been sewing ever since,” said Pratt.

The next Repair Cafe will be on April 20 when the event will be in the Memorial Peace Park bandstand as part of the Earth Day celebrations.

Brandon Tucker

About the Author: Brandon Tucker

I have been a journalist since 2013, with much of my career spent covering sports and entertainment stories in Alberta.
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