Restore old, broken items at Aug. 17 Repair Café in Seminole

Earth to Autism volunteers work on items at a previous Repair Café. The community is invited to bring their broken items at the next Repair Café, Saturday, Aug. 17, at Seminole United Methodist Church.

SEMINOLE — Earth to Autism, a nonprofit organization that trains adults with autism for green industry jobs, will host its next Repair Café on Saturday, Aug. 17, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., at Seminole United Methodist Church, 5400 Seminole Blvd.

The community is invited to bring their broken household items — bikes, jewelry, small household appliances, torn clothing and more — for repair at no cost, although donations are accepted. This month’s event will focus on bike repair. Individuals can relax and have a cup of coffee while they’re waiting or work with the repair experts to learn how to fix their items themselves.

“The goal of the Repair Café is to reduce the number of items being thrown in the landfill,” said Leanne Scalli, the organization’s founder and chair.

Repair Cafes are held around the world, but Earth to Autism hosts the only one in Florida.

“The Earth to Autism Repair Cafes are unique in that we use it as a green workspace opportunity for our adults with autism,” Scalli said. “Our adults work on learning repair skills through our Ambassador Training Program so that they can assist repair experts during the actual Repair Cafes.”

Eventually, she added, Repair Cafes will be run entirely by graduates of the training program, which launches this September. This “innovative program” teaches pre-employment skills to adults with autism, preparing them for green industry careers, she said. 

Once they’ve completed the program, each graduate has the opportunity to become an ambassador for Earth to Autism. These ambassadors help educate the community about autism awareness and sustainability.

Earth to Autism also runs a gardening program out of Seminole United Methodist Church. The organization has a community garden plot behind the church.

The garden project provides the ambassadors-in-training “an opportunity to practice what they are learning,” Scalli said. “Our job coach follows our ambassadors to the garden to make sure that the chores around the garden are done thoroughly and that the skills learned in the classroom carry over into the work that they are doing in the garden.”

This kind of hands-on learning is ideal for adults with autism, she added.

“One issue that (they) have with classroom learning is that they often don’t take the skill they’ve learned and use it outside of the classroom environment,” she said. “The garden experience is one opportunity where we can help adults with autism to generalize the skills they are learning in the classroom to the real world.”

Earth to Autism’s garden groups meets every Wednesday at 6 p.m., weather permitting, to tend to the garden. On other days of the week, volunteers take turns to water the garden.

Anyone interested in the Ambassador in Training program or volunteering with Earth to Autism should call 727-710-0649 or visit earthtoautism.com.