Ten years ago when I was a student at the University of Ottawa, I had this magical dream of something called a Free Store. I had heard from my friends that Carleton University had one and I instantly had to have one on my campus. I had never seen one for myself but I imagined that this incredible space would house row upon row of all manner of useful items. The walls would be adorned with beautifully framed pictures, the floors we be flooded with thick velvety carpets, and I would be able to spend hours just sifting through the sea of one of a kind knick-knacks.
Did I ever feel like a tool when I saw that the Free Store was nothing more than 5 boxes in the corner of a small student office. Apparently when there were enough people, they would put the boxes on the desk to make them easier to rummage through. Pfft, I was crushed.
So a year later OPIRG hosted a Clothing Swap at the University of Ottawa. It was fun, there were at least 8 garbage bags worth of clothes and one rack to hang some of them up on. A lot of people came by and swapped for some new stuff... but I won't lie, it wasn't the magical place that I originally dreamed of. Nevertheless we did eventually create a Free Store on campus; a fairly formidable one at that. (You can read about the evolution of the uOttawa store at the older post.)
We had some really crazy times with our Free Store this past year, including an almost near riot. But again, our Free Store was always just a few tables that we spread out in the UCU with some open boxes. Nothing ever lived up to that idealized space that I had conjured up oh so many years ago... until now. Yes, the rumours are true, we are creating a real life Free Store.
The details are still being finalized but this is what I can tell you:
- The Free Store will be in one of the houses on King Edward. We have already scoped out the space and installed some of the fixtures.
- We will have a permanent donation box. We were able to find a giant crate and add a handle to it. So now we can take donations 24/7 in one centralized location.
- We have our own washer and dryer. Of course we always encourage everyone to clean anything they get at the Free Store but now we can get rid of any particularly unsavoury stains and dubious odours.
- The Free Store will become a hub for donations to communities in need. We have a fair deal of sorting space in the store so we will be making sure that priority donations go to the places that need it most.
What's in store for the space? Well that depends on how the community would like to see us develop it. The Free Store could become a resource for clothing swap parties, educational seminars on consumption and waste disposal, resource centre for social work... the sky is the limit!
photo credit - jonathan rausseo