Key Takeaways

  • Every year, NISC's annual Programs of Excellence Awards honor and promote the outstanding programs offered by senior centers across the country.

  • Learn more about Repair Cafe, a 2022 Programs of Excellence Award Honorable Mention in the Marketing/Public Relations category.

NISC Programs of Excellence 

  • Year Awarded: 2022
  • Programs of Excellence Name: Repair Cafe
  • Hosting Organization: Hopkinton Senior Services, Massachusetts
  • Hopkinton Population: 18,758
  • 60+ Population: 3,298
  • Senior Center Members: 935

About Repair Cafe

We all have items that don't work quite as well as we'd like them to: lamps with loose switches, dulling knives, clocks that don't keep time, etc.  For many of us, these items collect dust in the basement, or we toss them in the trash. A better solution: repair cafes.

A unique and creative way to get people in the door at Hopkinton Senior Center, a repair cafe helped to increase visibility within the community.  With a goal to become the talk of the town, the center used  a variety of marketing strategies that included print ads, road signs, social media campaigns, and word of mouth.

Marketing efforts for the Repair Cafe included announcements in the Senior Center newsletter, posters in town buildings, social media posts on the Hopkinton Lions social media platforms, road signs placed throughout the town, articles in the local free newspaper, and a televised interview on the Senior Center local cable access show, 'Keep Movin.'  The center also sent targeted emails and information to groups around town whose goals aligned with the Repair Cafe specifically, the sustainability groups in town that focus on reducing waste and increasing eco-friendly ways to reuse and recycle materials. 

When the center put out a call for volunteer "fixers" for the Repair Cafe, nearly a dozen older adult men answered the call and express interest in volunteering.  Overwhelmingly, the response was excitement at getting to use their "tinkering" skills and tools to help others.  

The event ran for three hours on a single Saturday in September 2022 and was highly successful in its first year.  As people checked into the event they were given a simple piece of paper that tracked their repair request as well documented the time they arrived, the time they left, if the item was repaired, and additional feedback.  a total of 36 people brought in multiple knives/tools for sharpening and other items to repair. More than 24 items (lamps, sewing machines, clocks, furniture) were repaired along with more than 25 knives and garden tools sharpened.  Those who came to the building for the first time exclaimed surprise with the size of the building and the variety of programs offered.  Many participants expressed gratitude and positive feedback for hosting the event.  Best of all: vistors who came to the senior center for the first time to the Repair Cafe and then started coming to the center regularly afterward.  

The senior centers plans to host a Repair Cafe twice a year and at its second cafe saw the number of participants and items brought in more than double. 

Key takeaways from Repair Cafe:

  • A repair cafe increases sustainability efforts by keeping items from filling the landfills, keeps money in our pockets, and brings the community together.
  • Partnering with the local Hopkinton Lions Club to increased the senior center's volunteer capacity, enhanced community outreach efforts with a dedicated website, and provided liability insurance for the event.
  • Many senior center members (or potential members) belong to a generation where helping others is paramount, and finding a way to bring their commitment to help and their handyman skills together was a perfect combination.

About Hopinkton Senior Services

The Hopkinton Council on Aging and Hopinkton Senior Services "seeks to enhance and enrich the quality of life for adults aged 60 and older in the Town of Hopkinton, by providing activities and services that encourage independence, healthy living, and continued participation in the community." Outreach at the Hopkinton Senior Center includes confidential help with such needs as financial assistance, transportation, nutrition, housing options, and elder law referrals. As part of a community initiative, the Hopkinton Senior Center issponsoring a series of age- and dementia-friendly events including concerts, film screenings, and arts and crafts at the Senior Center and at other local organizations such as the Public Library and the Hopkinton Center for the Arts.