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Transition Pasadena aims to repair what's broken: Larry Wilson





<b>May 24, 2016</b> - Transitions Pasadena has a hand-on approach to change as exemplified by the Pasadena Repair Cafe.


Larry Wilson, Public Editor


Pasadena Star-News


We get houseproud enough when a local organization is doing good stuff for the community, but when one gets international recognition, we ought to shout it to the rooftops.

That’s what I’m doing about the Pasadena Repair Cafe, a grassroots effort that is one of the worldwide loving-hands-at-home projects recently celebrated in a book called “21 Stories of Transition,” as “harvested” by Rob Hopkins, a British social activist.

A quote from a happy participant pretty much says it all: “I can’t believe the guy who built the Mars Rover just repaired my electric shaver!”

But believe it or nuts, ’cause that’s what happened at the Repair Cafe as set up by Transition Pasadena after cofounder Therese Brummel heard in 2010 about a similar effort in the Netherlands. Great tinkerers, including at least one JPL engineer, made themselves available to fix household items that had seen better days — a rarity in our throw-away society in which once something stops working well, we often chuck it.

Transition Pasadena has also created the Throop Church Learning Garden along with workshops on low-energy living, mulching your garden, fruit trees in public places with food for the picking and how to create a cooler roof for your home.

Asked by the book’s editors how the Repair Cafe found its repairers, Pasadena neighborhood activist Sylvia Holmes replied, “We just ask. There’s the San Gabriel Valley Hackers, people who work at Caltech ... they come. People just know people. They make it fun.”

Member Laurel Beck added: “You feel part of a community that is getting on and doing things, and recycling. There’s a sense of welcome. ... We’re glad to see people when they show up with their broken stuff.”

I had coffee with Sylvia, a neighbor and longtime friend of mine and daughter of the wonderful late Pasadena Mayor John Crowley, recently at Lincoln Cafe, and she was both proud of the group’s recognition and wishing to spin it forward. In the last five years the diverse group has logged over 6,000 volunteer hours, screened and created dozens of small-scale local projects.

“We’ve learned to be careful about how many ideas we have, because they are a lot of work,” she told the editors.

She’s got that right. But how nice to be recognized for that work along groups from 15 countries that fit into the low-key Transition movement’s ideal of small-scale experiments in doing things right “at a practical and meaningful level.” Here’s the attitude they share about getting help from officials, as expressed by Peter Capener of Bath, England: “We don’t need governments to show us how to make the changes we need, but we do need governments to work with us to create the conditions within which change can flourish.”

For more information on how to get involved, go to

Monday evening at Westridge School, the annual Golden Arrow awards were bestowed by Pasadena Beautiful on 36 homeowners who have made their gardens grow in wonderful ways. I love the manner in which the volunteers decide the winners: The city is divided into nine districts, and two members drive every street within each to pick out the beauties, many of which have gone xeriscapey in the ongoing dryness. A winner at 830 N. Pasadena Ave. said: “It started a few years ago when my husband tried to get rid of some weeds and went too far. But now our garden reflects my personality: drought-tolerant!” Another gardener who had been working for some time joked: “I was expecting a Golden Arrow about 20 years ago, but I guess I had to tear out my grass to get it!” Like the MacArthur “genius” awards, you can’t apply; you just do good and wait. A full list of winners will be posted soon at

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