Buy Nothing requires giving and receiving to a neighboring level

In the meantime, in Ambler and a host of other places…

Buy Nothing groups are active in Upper Dublin in Montgomery County, Doylestown in Bucks County, Malvern in Chester County and in the Mount Airy part of Philadelphia, among locations in this region.

Colleen Johnson, from Buy Nothing Ambler / Blue Bell / Lower Gwynedd, stepped into the role of administrator as that community grew. With more than 1,000 members, it can sprout another group to maintain a hyperlocal feel.

However, it is also becoming aware of how reinforcing boundaries could separate people along class boundaries.

“So it would be like West Ambler and East Ambler or something like that, but you also have to look at people’s socioeconomics,” Johnson said. “So Blue Bell tends to have more richer people in a way so they can have bigger items to give. There are a lot of tenants in Ambler. There are a lot more established people in Blue Bell and Lower Gwynedd, so we have like a good mix of people. “

She has noted that the demographics of the gift economy are more skewed towards women, but Johnson said it has not stopped her husband from attending and bringing more things home than they can handle at times – though they always make it work.

Part of the benefit of being an administrator is being able to see the internal functions of other groups. That was where Johnson saw his favorite thing as a gift.

“A person’s relative was going to hospice and he wanted peanutbutter Girl Scout cookies. And it was not Girl Scout time – but one of my members had them in the freezer,” Johnson said. “And then… I drove it to her and she brought it to his relatives. So it was like a little train. But we were able to meet someone’s last request, and it cost no one anything. “

Items can change hands quite often. Gina Carrozza, an administrator of Buy Nothing Pilgrim Gardens / Drexel Hill, said a “Happy Birthday” lawn sign became quite popular in her group.

“There was so much interest in it that we started making a sign-up sheet. So we had a post and everyone wanted to sign up, and every day almost someone else had this sign,” Carrozza said. [it] lasted about six months and I think went through 75 people. “

Melinda Levandowski, an administrator of Buy Nothing Jenkintown / Wyncote, happens to be a professional organizer and cleaner of trades. She said we buy too many things and it stresses us out.

The value of Buy Nothing, she said, is that it provides an emotional exchange when we can find a home for things of sentimental value.

“You can actually match your stuff with what you think is worth in the emotional value, just as you can find a recipient who values ​​it and to whom you can pass it on,” Levandowski said.

She is great on the neighbor spirit, even online.

“I post reminders once in a while, like ‘Hello everyone, here’s how polite you are in comments.’ And, ‘How to talk to people on the Internet.’ And, ‘This is how you give a gift, and this is how you receive it’, but otherwise people are just generous and people get it like that, “Levandowski said.

Ally Sabatina, from Buy Nothing Broomall / Newtown Square, has turned the script around for the role of admin. She and the other administrators have begun asking their members for recommendations on how the group can best work to help everyone in the community – not just them on Facebook.

“As our group has grown much larger and we have in a way asked our group members, we feel it is important to support the resources of the community as much as we support the heart of our group,” Sabatina said.

Liana de Lara, an administrator of the Buy Nothing Conshohocken, has noted that gifts and inquiries may reflect the holiday season, but she has also seen that they may reflect the difficulties society faces, such as the loss of Hurricane Ida.

“It hit the Conshohock pretty badly. There have been a lot of queries going around… like ‘the whole house was affected, so does anyone have extra dishes? I’m just starting a new place,” de Lara said.

And in the pandemic …

Things almost stalled in many groups when the coronavirus hit, but it brought out the best in Buy Nothing Lansdowne.

Mother and daughter Gillian and Caroline Lancaster came to the United States via England in 1988, although Gillian says: “I moved to Pennsylvania in 2004. And I have lived in Lansdowne but hardly knew anyone because I worked and I was never here during the day. . “

Gillian (L) and Caroline Lancaster (H) turned their porch into a makeshift pantry during the pandemic with the help of Buy Nothing Lansdowne.
Gillian (L) and Caroline Lancaster (H) turned their porch into a makeshift pantry during the pandemic with the help of Buy Nothing Lansdowne. (Kenny Cooper / WHYY)

Caroline Lancaster has lived in the Philadelphia area since the 1990s, but she did not stop in Lansdowne until the pandemic. She was bored and her mother needed help cleaning up the house. (Both women are independent graphic designers.)

Gillian Lancaster admitted that she has suffered from an obsession with Facebook, and that’s how she came across Buy Nothing Lansdowne.

“I cheated the most at first, because I did not quite get the idea to just ask something, and then people would just give it. It seemed a little strange, “Gillian said.” And the first thing I did was actually lend someone a score, because it felt safe. And I got such lovely, positive feedback from that I thought this would probably work. So when Caroline came, I told her. ”

Because Caroline did not originally live in Lansdowne, she was only allowed to attend probation. The duo soon began handing out crafts and goods. They really enjoyed seeing people give and receive things both big and small.

“It’s one of those things that may not make sense from the outside; once you’re in the sect, it suddenly makes sense, “Caroline said, laughing, adding,” It’s not a sect. “

They quickly found a way in the pandemic to exploit the generosity of Buy Nothing to help their neighbors.

“And then there was a lunch box program, which we decided to take part in, because we have a porch. And I had time and why not, ”said Caroline.

A neighbor with a van, Deborah Van Dornick, and her son Jonathan Cairnes had connections to places where leftovers were distributed. They also made sure that they did not take food from other places in need. Soon the Lancasters turned their porch into a makeshift pantry where people could drop off food or come and pick up something.

The Lancasters were usually not outside when people picked up food because they did not want anyone to be uncomfortable. Still, people in need of food would leave dishwashing liquid because they felt they had to leave something behind.

“There should be no shame in needing food. Everyone needs food. And during the pandemic, many people did not qualify, especially in the beginning, they did not qualify for any extra help. And there was a huge need because a lot of people around here are paycheck to paycheck, ”Caroline Lancaster said.

It was not Caroline’s only passion project using Buy Nothing resources. She turned unwanted Harry Potter books into origami, bookmarks and keychains. She has sold them, but she does not put money in her pocket. Instead, Caroline donates 100% of the profits to trans organizations that help change laws for the better.

Gillian Lancaster said it warms her heart to see gifts, especially in the pandemic where there have been so many deaths.

Caroline said that giving should be seen as a service to society as opposed to the individual.

“And it’s so nice to reformulate giving instead of a mutual thing. I’m giving you something to show you how I love you. You’re my city. You know, I love you. So let’s take care. on each other. Why not? “

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