Sunday, July 22, 2012

Start Planning: Time and Place

When.  Weekend mornings, good weather/season for outdoor gatherings.  You could do it indoors, but you will likely increase participation with an outdoor event.  In my Utah city, I chose the first Saturday in June.  The next one will be the last Saturday in September.  (If the response continues to be positive, I will continue to annually hold 2 free swaps on those weekends.  Over time people will be able to anticipate.)  Avoid conflict with other major events in the community—summer festival days, college game days, etc.  You can’t avoid everything, but you don’t want big-game-day gridlock clogging up the flow of traffic during your event. 

Where.  I chose to reserve a pavilion at the city center park.  (I made the reservation 2 ½ months before the scheduled free swap.)  Though I had to pay out of my own pocket for the reservation, it was worth it to me to have the security of a roof in case of rain.  The other benefit of reserving the pavilion was having 16 sturdy aluminum picnic tables to use to display items.  If you don’t have available tables you will need to track down people willing to donate folding display tables for the duration of the event.  NOTE: LABEL ANY ITEMS—TABLES, CHAIRS, ETC.—THAT ARE BEING USED FOR THE EVENT SO GUESTS KNOW TO NOT TAKE THEM.  I chose a location that had steady traffic and a parking lot nearby, thus facilitating unloading and loading of goods.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sharing: We . All . Prosper .

(Photo courtesy of Heather Ellis Photography)

After seeing smiles and sharing and delighted incredulity in 7 summers of neighborhood free swap meets, I decided this was an event that needed to grow, that needed to touch many, many more lives.

This summer I expanded the scope of the free swap to include my whole city and the greater community at large.  I contacted the mayor and city council, the city manager, and the Neighborhoods in Action chair.  I reached out to local businesses and charitable organizations (food bank, United Way, Habitat for Humanity).  I wrote my first press release, interviewed with columnists from two different newspapers, and appeared on the KSL Noon News to promote the community free swap.  (It got a segment on the ten o' clock news that night.  Watch it here.)

The response was amazing.

People came.  They came with clothes, with cribs, with kitchen appliances, with electronics, with entertainment centers, with furniture, with books, with craft items and with cans of baby formula.  One donation was a fairly good-sized organ (the piano-like instrument, that is, not a vital body part).  There were people seeking me out to tell me how much they loved the idea.  Many asked when the next one was going to be.  And a couple of people gave me hugs as thanks.  I was so moved.

I thought about it.  This event in one Utah community benefited hundreds of people.  Imagine if every city across the country were to hold such an event--even if it were just once a year--those hundreds would turn into millions.

Join me in starting a trend of gracious giving and gracious receiving by organizing a community free s:w.a.p in your city/region.

The community free s:w.a.p blog will be a virtual gathering place.  You can read guidelines for starting your own event, share your tips and suggestions, submit event reports, share touching or funny stories, and photos of your event--pictures of the weirdest items donated are a bonus!

I would love to get several events going in the second half of 2012.  (I am organizing another event in my city for the last Saturday in September.  This will be a great time to swap cold weather gear, blankets, and even shop for potential gifts for whatever upcoming holiday/birthday people may be celebrating.)  For those in temperate regions or in the South, this is more easily scheduled.  For those in colder climates, you would want to start planning right away or hold off, lay the groundwork and plan for one early next summer.

If you are interested in organizing such an event in your community, email me at  Include your name, city/region, and how you heard about this.

Compared to many nations across the globe, there is such abundance in our country—general abundance of food, of goods, and of wealth.  The community free s:w.a.p. is a chance to foster the abundance of good will in all of us.

Dream with me.

[I have documented some previous free swap events--including links to articles and the TV news report--on my blog  Click on the "community" label on the right and it will load several posts, among which are 5 about free swap events.]