Spirit of foreclosure continues as groups of neighbors become shops of exchange | Communities
They started as a way to do the right thing by vulnerable neighbors during the pandemic: WhatsApp groups asking if anyone on the street needs help, for example with shopping.
A year and a half later, these community groups continue to thrive and have become a means of exchanging and sharing goods, offering everything from spare dog food to a free car.
James Riley, a member of the Brockwell Park Gardens and Trinity Rise WhatsApp group in south London, believes sharing with neighbors is a sign that people want to keep the community spirit alive. “You would imagine people would try to sell these items, but there is a spirit of trying to keep them in the community,” he says.
He adds that “anything and everything” is offered in the group, including plants, mirrors and windows. And this spirit of giving is due to Covid, which he says “has made people feel more connected to their neighbors”.
“It’s going very fast. Someone put a car in it that they no longer drove. It was in very good condition. It’s amazing, ”says Riley. “Someone also offered an Aga recently, although I think they wanted some money for it.”
It’s an image reflected across the country: Community connections established at the height of the pandemic are helping to create unofficial exchange stores. This culture of sharing has exploded since the outbreak of the coronavirus, according to a pre-WhatsApp website dedicated to free distribution of items. Postings on the Freecycle Network, a non-profit platform launched in 2003, increased by 50% in June 2020, revealed its executive director Deron Beal.
“It lasted until the fall. Then last winter, when communities locked themselves in, members turned to essential items like hanging homemade masks on a ‘gift tree’ or leaving essential supplies in front for others to pick up. he said, adding that information on vaccination centers and testing sites was also been shared.
Beal attributes the increased use of the platform to “compassion and a desire for community.”
Judy Bell, 69, a retired manager from Wolverhampton who now teaches English as a Foreign Language on a voluntary basis, used Freecycle differently during the lockdown. “It became more and more evident that the asylum seekers I continued to teach English had great difficulty in procuring items that would make their lives more bearable,” she says. “So I started making ‘requests’ on their behalf on various local free cycle and zero waste sites. I was blown away by the responses I got.
“I managed to find three bikes for a single-parent family in Morocco… a sewing machine and a lot of fabric for a passionate seamstress from El Salvador.
In fact, she was offered so many articles that she had to start directing people to other organizations. “I have to say that the generosity continued,” she says. “What started during the lockdown has become firmly entrenched in the attitudes of members of local freecycle groups. “
Amina Abu-Shahba, 43, also turned to Freecycle during the lockdown, setting up an exchange store in Swansea. She says, “I thought I would get a few friends together, and before I knew it, the group was almost 5,000 people. It has become something much more important than just keeping things out of the landfill, it has become a community and a source of support for women across town. So far, we’ve traded over 25,000 items, raised money for charity, and had lots of unexpected events along the way.
“Lockdown played a role because a lot of people were looking for connection and purpose. Some people have stood out as active members, but in general the community helps each other out regularly and generously donates items for no personal gain – well, maybe for a tidier closet.