Kitchener-Waterloo

Low-income appliance repair program to end in June

An appliance repair program that has served the needs of low-income families in Waterloo region for almost 40 years will end in June, after most of its funding was cut in December.

House of Friendship looking at plan to help people access funds for repairs once program ends

Keith Wagler, who has served at the helm of the appliance repair program for 34 years, will retire in June when the program is discontinued. (House of Friendship)

An appliance repair program that has served the needs of low income families in Waterloo region for almost 40 years will end in June, after most of its funding was cut in December.

"It will have an impact on those that currently rely on the service, and we don't want to sugar-coat that," said Allison Dunn, community services director at House of Friendship.

House of Friendship helps pay for the program along with funding from Waterloo region. 

"To repair an appliance can be costly. We are very aware of that and are dedicated to trying to lighten that impact through the other services we provide."

Cost effective solution

Through the program, people who live on low-incomes can have large appliances, such as a fridge, stove, washer or dryer, repaired free of charge. 

It's how he does the work that really made him stand out, and I think that led to the huge success.- Allison Dunn, House of Friendship

For the same work, a repair person might charge $100 or more, money that House of Friendship clients often can't spare. 

Although the program only received around 200 calls for service in 1980, the year it began, Dunn said its popularity grew quickly.

By the 1990s, the appliance repair program was fielding more than 1,000 calls per year. 

The man at the helm

Dunn credits the success of the program to one man, Keith Wagler. He has been doing the appliance repairs since 1984.

"The service itself ... is one thing, but it's how he does the work that really made him stand out, and I think that led to the huge success," she said.

Wagler, who worked for an electrical company before House of Friendship, said it was the chance to serve people that motivated him to sign up as head of the appliance repair program.

"That was the beauty of this job," he said. "You don't have to get your 10 calls done a day. You're mainly there to help people out and get them back to normal as much as possible."

Program ending in June

Wagler will retire in June, and that's one of the reasons why the program is ending.

The second reason, according to Wagler, is that new appliances are difficult and costly to repair. 

He said replacement parts can cost $200 or more, almost as much as a low-priced, brand-new appliance.

In addition, Dunn said there have been fewer calls for service in recent years. Calls have gone down to about 600 from 1,000.

The third and final reason, according to Dunn, is that funding from Waterloo region to run the program was cut in December. 

Since House of Friendship does not have the money to run the $100,000 appliance repair program without an outside donor, it made the decision to wind the program down. 

Finding a replacement

Dunn said the organization has been working with the region and partner organizations to fill the gap when the program ends in June.

"There are some places that offer lower cost appliances but nothing like what currently exists with this appliance repair program, and it will not be replaced," she said. 

In the meantime, she said House of Friendship has a outreach program that can identify individuals and families who need help with appliance repair.

"We're working with them quite closely to develop partnerships and brainstorm with people and access funds if available to help repair appliances if that does happen," she said. 

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