Germantown Residents for Economic Alternatives Together hosted its second community item swap to provide financial and sustainable relief to those seeking useful holiday finds.
‘Tis the season of giving, a sentiment easily lost amid overwhelming consumerism pressures accompanied by crumpled, overpriced Black Friday receipts shoved into your wallet. Nevertheless, it is still there. And about a week and a half after our annual pocketbook doomsday, on December 2, Germantown Residents for Economic Alternatives Together (GREAT) offered a cost-efficient and sustainable alternative to ring in the holiday cheer with “The GREAT Swap.”
GREAT hosted the swap at The First United Methodist Church of Germantown (FUMCOG). Community members were encouraged to bring clothing articles, household items, and more. Lindsay Stolkey, the organizer of the swap, recognized the high demand for the event ever since the success of the last item swap in January 2020. Aside from the tangible gain, the community comradery was the lead inspiration behind its comeback.
Stolkey talks about the swap, saying, “I think the swap is a kind of symbolic effort of GREAT because it’s an example of sharing resources and representing that as a community, we have so much. People can contribute whatever they want, or nothing, just like coming up and bringing their good energy, and people can take whatever they want or need.”
She finishes her thought: “It just represents that we can help each other meet our needs for basic economic stuff, clothing, household items… And so I think people probably come here with different intentions or different levels of need. But I think it’s also a good practice in, like, everyone being both a giver and a receiver; that it just goes both ways, and there’s kind of this reciprocity.”
In the vast abundance of books, mattress toppers, popcorn makers, and more, community members were able to find the right fit for their collections. Michael Baker, alongside girlfriend Lottie Appel, both Germantown community members, secured a bright orange statement shirt, which he plans to refashion.
Another Germantown community member, Naomi Brito, spotted a gold magazine rack that she found useful. While GREAT welcomed in swappers at all levels, the event concepts were familiar to those aforementioned. Appel and Brito have both hosted personal item swaps. Appel hosts the event in her backyard, sending out a mass text to her friends and her friends’ friends to engage in a night of giving and receiving, while Brito’s passion for swapping is a demonstration bigger than herself.
“I’m big on bartering, swapping, any kind of outside-capitalism means of exchanging goods,” said Brito.
While a marketplace of goods, the GREAT Swap equally serves a greater purpose. Its biggest theme develops a fundamental understanding of how care and consideration preserve the vivacity of the Germantown neighborhood, a concept that eight-year-old Cameron Anderson captures with a touching narration.
“I feel good donating to kids who don’t really have any clothes and that really need some [clothes] to wear or just need new ones. I’m actually very happy that if they come here, they’ll find what they’re looking for,” explains Anderson.
Hand-in-hand with her step-mom, Chantel Carden, both girls are witnessing and interpreting the benefits of a communal swap instead of over-saturated options, such as unethical thrifting practices, which Carden suggests.
She elaborates on her implication: “I feel like the connotation of thrift has become like trash, like ‘Oh, my stuff is worn and used out,’ but people don’t feel right throwing things away. So, I think as a way to make themselves feel better, they [think] like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna just give it to a thrift store,’ where it’s like why? You know, these things are worn down, they’re used, they’re not in good condition. So you just want to dump that on somebody else to give to another person.”
Carden continues: “So I think a lot of people correlate thrifting with just like, ‘Oh, I’m getting rid of my stuff,’ versus a swap where it’s like, ‘Hey, I had some items I’m not using anymore. You have items that you might not be using anymore.’ So, instead of just going to the thrift store and [being] like, ‘Oh, here take this stuff and deal with it,’ we can just come together as neighbors and create more resources for each other.”
As illustrated by FUMCOG’s Rev. Alisa Lasater Wailoo, the only thing that glistens more than a winter wonderland is the joyful look in someone’s eye when they find something they need.
GREAT organizer and 18-year Germantown resident, Dionne Chambers, further interprets how the swap serves a greater purpose in community members going through different walks of life. She warmly refers to the children running around with excitement surrounding their new toys or a mother visualizing what a bright painting could look like on her walls at home.
“I like the fact that we’re also supporting a lot of young women and children who may be in shelters in the neighborhood… To them [the swap is] almost like Christmas… The young mothers are able to furnish the space that they have. Now that they have a safe space, even though it may be temporary, it helps them make their own,’ said Chambers.
All remaining items leftover from The GREAT Swap will be donated to a non-profit organization. GREAT’s elves (organizers) will help transport the items to the location, leaving behind a sack of presents and wishes for happy holidays. For future Swaps and other events, visit greatgtown.org.