Free Swap: Give away, find, connect with community

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Free Swap, which creates a space for Utah County residents to exchange goos, is holding a swap day at Orem City Center Park on Saturday, Oct. 24 at 9 a.m. (Photo courtesy Free Swap)

Free Swap, which creates a space for Utah County residents to exchange goos, is holding a swap day at Orem City Center Park on Saturday, Oct. 24 at 9 a.m. (Photo courtesy Free Swap)

Have things sitting around your house that you don’t need? But you haven’t had time to haul them to the thrift store? Or does listing them in online classifieds seem overwhelming? Maybe you’d rather give them away for free, and at the same time pick up some things you need. Or do you have garden produce that you won’t use? Then the semiannual Free Swap is for you.

Free Swap was born in an Orem neighborhood 10 years ago as a place for people to give away the things they didn’t need, to people who did. It grew, and about five years ago organizers moved it to a larger venue to make it more of a community-wide event. The Free Swap is held on the first Saturday in June and the last Saturday in September each year, at the Orem City Center Park Rotary Pavilion (on Center Street, between State Street and 400 East).

“We’re taking what would have been an errand and turning it into a celebration of community sharing,” said Sarah Bateman, Free Swap founder.

With between 400 and 800 people at each event, they’ve got clothes, toys, books, athletic gear, baby gear, furniture, and more, she said. Sometimes they have musical instruments, like guitars and drums, and one year they even had an organ. This year they’re also trying for a produce market, by encouraging people to bring the excess produce from their gardens and commercial sellers to donate their ugly, unsellable fruit and vegetables.

“We’re taking what would have been an errand and turning it into a celebration of community sharing.” —Sarah Bateman, Free Swap founder

“At a time when 40 percent of our food in the U.S. is thrown away, at the same time we have one in five people who suffer from food insecurity,” she said. “We’re trying to connect those two, and to highlight Utah County growers. … We’re trying to remind people how great Utah Valley is for getting fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Donors bring their items to the park the day of the event, and volunteers use the donations to stock a communal store, Bateman said. If you donate, you don’t have to stay and see if your items are taken, but you can stick around and talk to the people who pick up your donations. And if no one takes your items, volunteers will haul them away to the thrift store at the end of the swap.

Also, you can shop the swap without donating, she said. “Anyone can come. Some people are ready to clear out and de-clutter and pear down. Some are needing new things. This benefits everybody.”

The Free Swap runs on volunteers, and they’re still needed. If you’d like to help, all you need to do is show up, and go to the volunteer station for a badge. Volunteers are needed at 7:30 a.m. for set up, and during the entire swap, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. If you have questions, email Sarah Bateman at freeswapcommunity@gmail.com. If you want to donate, just show up with your stuff between 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

“This is a great community for service, and this is a platform for featuring the generosity that already exists in this community,” Bateman said. “You never know what’s going to come; it’s always fun and different. … It’s a fun time to meet new people and hear their stories about what they brought and what they found. It’ been a pretty neat experience.”

For more information about Free Swap, go to its Facebook page or blog.

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Amie Rose has more than 14 years of experience writing and editing at newspapers in Utah and New Mexico. She graduated from BYU with a degree in journalism. She lives in Utah Valley with her husband, toddler and crazy dog.

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