Free ‘Fix-it Fairs’ foster fun, fund-saving feelings

See the fun we had at the last Fix-it Fair in Powellhurst-Gilbert a few weeks ago. If you missed it, mark January 27th on your calendar now. Read this, and you’ll learn how to save big bucks, and enjoy a free Burgerville USA lunch while you’re there ‚Ķ

Welcoming outer East Portland neighbors to the 20th Annual Fix-it Fair are hostesses Joellen Carothers, Genevieve Joplin, and Jill Kolek.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Is it too good to be true? A free event put on the City of Portland, that helps residents be safer and save money? And, that it’s primarily funded by businesses, instead of tax dollars?

Nope. Not it’s not a scam, when we’re talking about the 20th Annual Fix-it Fairs.

The last place this roving fair took place was a few weeks ago at the Alice Ott Middle School in Powellhurst-Gilbert. It attracted hundreds of folks who attended free classes, got free merchandise – and a free lunch.

Information free, for all
Jill Kolek, City of Portland Office of Sustainable Development, welcomed us to the fair, explaining, “This is a place where folks can meet with forty vendors to learn all kinds of money-saving ideas.”

The vendors don’t sell stuff, Kilek said — but instead, give information. Residents get community resource information like water conservation, gardening, posting, electric safety, and insulation, for example.

“The beautiful thing about this is that our partners contribute to putting on these fairs. Not only are Fix-It Fairs free to the public, they use city resources. And, they do people a world of good.”

Keith Berkery, with a little help from hard-hatted Felisha Mills, encouraged Rita Cook to attend their class. “The most important thing I leaned,” Cook recalled, “was that everyone should have a three-day emergency kit ready.”

Safety first
At one of the exhibits, we met up with our friend Kerry Dugan, the information officer with the Portland Office of Emergency Management.

“We give a class to help people learn the basic things they should do to prepare for emergencies,” Dugan explained. “One is to build a 72-hour emergency kit for each person in your household. Another thing is to make an emergency plan for both your home and business.”

The emergency class teacher, Keith Berkery, added, “The important thing is that neighbors should know how to first take care of themselves, then their family, and be willing to then reach out and care for their neighbors.”

Always promoting safety, Dugan reminded as we left, “Be sure to tell folks to come see us at Madison High School on January 27th if they missed this event.”

Multnomah County Weatherization Program’s Jessica Bowen and Tom Brodbeck team up with Rex Hollingsworth of Rex Heating, to help people learn how to stay warm while slashing their heating bills.

Keeping homes cozy
Has the cold snap left you shivering, while your energy bills shot up through the roof? Then you really need to meet Rex Hollingsworth, East Portland’s furnace expert, with 30 years experience in heating and cooling. “I’ve worked on a lot of homes across our area, as many as 500 a year.”

“I’m here teaching a furnace basic class,” Hollingsworth explained. “I volunteer to teach this class because when people learn how to maintain their furnace, it saves them so much money.”

Asked for his most important tip, he stated, “Change your furnace filters! If air can’t easily pass through them, your home can’t be efficiently heated. Remember, changing filters costs so little, but help you save so much money during the winter.”

Lunch, hot off the grill

Not only do you get free money-saving advice and hand outs, the Fix-it Fair also features lunch. Here, hot-off-the-grill burgers are being served by Kenneth Moody.

The smell of Burgerville USA lunches wafted through the building.

Before sampling the noontime repast, we asked Jerry Otto, manager of the store at SE 122nd and Stark Street, why they participate by giving away free lunches.

“We believe in fresh, local and sustainable products and services,” Otto told us, our mouth already beginning to salivate. “This includes renewable energy. That is our commitment as a company. We started partnering with the Fix-it Fairs last year by providing fresh, hot lunches to help bring people in.”

Last fair is January 27

Dozens of companies and agencies are on hand to give you money-saving tips, health, and safety information, or provide governmental resource information at the Annual Fix-it Fair, from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Madison High School at 2735 NE 82nd Ave. of Roses on January 27.

This year’s last Fix-it Fair in East Portland is coming right up on January 27.

Exhibitors and hourly workshops offer practical, expert information on such topics as gardening, home health and safety and energy conservation.

If that isn’t enough, you’ll also find:

  • Prize drawings for compact fluorescent light bulbs, gift certificates to local stores, carbon monoxide detectors, etc.;
  • Assorted giveaways, including recycled plastic tote bags; and,
  • All-day on-site professional childcare.

The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Madison High School at 2735 NE 82nd Ave. of Roses on January 27.

For more information, call 503-823-4309, e-mail or visit

¬© 2007 ~ David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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