Volunteers ready to make repairs at the first Isla Vista Fix-It-Fair | Credit: Chloe Shanfeld
Isla Vista Community Center played host to the Isla Vista Fix-It-Fair | Credit: Chloe Shanfeld

Not sure what to do with that tangled broken necklace sitting in your drawer? Or that pair of jeans with a hole in the knee? Don’t want to pay to have your broken bike chain fixed on that tight college budget? Why not give them a new life? UCSB environmental science students Mollie McGee and Ava Mills have come up with a solution to bring new life to damaged belongings and bring together the Isla Vista community.

According to McGee, Fix-It Fairs are “volunteer driven community events that aim to divert waste from landfill by promoting repair and reuse instead of replacement.” Complete with manned stations for clothing, jewelry, bicycle, and skateboard repairs, the event delivered its impressive crowd with free service by local experts.

As part of UCSB’s Environmental Leadership Incubator (ELI), McGee and Mills are spearheading a series of Fix-It Fairs for their capstone project. ELI is a student-initiated program that seeks to implement positive environmental change through professional mentorship and applicable coursework.

“It’s so awesome,” said Mills about ELI. “You get a lot of creative leeway. You get to explore whatever you’re passionate about and [the mentors] are just helping you develop leadership skills and communication skills.” Applying these skills and using local outreach tools like email, posters, and social media, the duo was able to recruit volunteers and secure the resources they needed.

Freecycle swap area | Credit: Chloe Shanfeld

After McGee reached out to her through a mutual friend, jeweler and UCSB student, Sophie Pullen offered her expertise to fix necklaces, chains, earrings, and watches. “People are bringing things that they care about and items they really like,” Pullen said. She loves being able to revive jewelry that would have otherwise been “thrown out or just gone to waste.”

Seamstresses ready to make repairs at the Isla Vista Fix-It-Fair | Credit: Chloe Shanfeld

While volunteering to fix bikes and skateboards, Henry Sarria, retired engineer and long-time resident of Isla Vista, acknowledged how expensive bike repairs can be at the local bike shops. He was excited at the opportunity to help cash-strapped students save money and diminish the increasing number of abandoned bikes on and around campus.

In addition to the repair stations, McGee and Mills set up booths where attendees could refill soap dispensers and upcycle old clothing with handmade stamps. They also had a “free swap” area where people could leave clothes or gadgets they no longer use or pick up those that others left. As environmental concern is on the rise, McGee wants people to rethink discarding items that could be salvaged or repurposed.

Following a successful fall quarter Fix-It Fair on November 17, McGee and Mills are planning follow-ups in the winter and spring. In the future, they plan to work with the school and city to expand their mission into the greater Goleta and Santa Barbara areas. They also hope to leave a lasting impact with their project, making Fix-It Fairs a regular community event.

As a local, Sarria summed up the event perfectly: “I believe in respect and values and a sense of community. And that’s what we’re getting here.”

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