The Earth Stewards Team at Holy Ghost Lutheran Church of Fredericksburg, Texas held their first sustainability event: a “freecycle” for the church and the surrounding community on June 25, 2011. The concept was straightforward and similar to a garage sale or a flea market except for one caveat: every item would be absolutely free, with “no strings attached.” One of our chief goals was to provide an opportunity for city-wide reuse and thus divert significant waste volume from the local landfill. Participants could take as much or as little as they wished between 10 am and 2 pm. Items were donated from both the church and the community between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.
The team drew upon intergenerational volunteers from 13 – 80 years. The outcome exceeded our wildest expectations. During the event our team overheard participants calling up friends and family members and inviting them to join them at the church to select from the excellent merchandise available.
June 25th was a beautifully sunny day. We put out approximately 10 tables for displaying merchandise outside. Volunteer sorted donated items according to signage on those tables (children’s clothing, toys, appliances, electronics, sporting goods, medical equipment, etc.) By the end of the event, we were amazed by how few goods remained. We arranged for the local Hospice resale shop to pick up any items that remained (there was only enough to fill up one truck bed).
It was an awe-inspiring experience to see environmental good, social action and social justice take place simultaneously. Our team was thankful that the vast majority of participants heeded our call to only “take what you need, need what you take.” In other words, there was very minimal hoarding. It was also a delight to see a number of participants so caught off guard by the fact that all items were actually free. Others asked our team, “When is the next one?” On a few occasions, donated items never made it to the display tables, but went straight from the donor to the recipients during the unloading process. On at least one occasion a volunteer had to flip a coin to decide between two parties who touched the desired item at the same time. 10 a.m. was the official start time when items could be picked up. By 10 am, there were as many as 100 people waiting on the sidewalk for the “green light.” Some arrived as early as 7:30 a.m.
A number of grateful recipients offered the church cash donations. The Earth Stewards team elected not to receive those gifts because they wanted to make a statement that all items were free, just as God’s grace is free.
Perhaps 200 individuals were served by this four hour event, and it took about 30 minutes for setup and another 30 minutes for take down and cleanup. Earth Steward members seemed to enjoy their volunteer effort and were quite enthusiastic about holding similar outreaches in the near future.