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Charity and frugality may seem like oxymorons, but Swap and Sell, a local Facebook phenomenon, has become a huge success by combining them both. People often liken it to an addiction, admitting, “I can’t help it, I just have to see what people are posting.” This “addiction,” unique to the Eastern Shore, is a private Facebook group where people can post pictures of gently-used clothes, toys, or various bric-a-brac that so often collect in attics or garages. Those who follow the group closely may be unaware that Swap and Sell not only gives new life to what was once old or unused, but also follows a pattern of creative charitable giving set by Swap and Sell Founder, Wendy Basil. Her influence has built on the success of the Facebook group and made it a vehicle with which to help those in need.
“The two women who administer our Dorchester site held an auction,” says Basil. “They asked that people bid using non-perishable goods like peanut butter or mac n’ cheese as payment.” After the auction was completed, the auctioneers had collected 10-12 large boxes to donate to local food banks. “They did receive some money from the auction,” continues Basil. “They used that money along with coupons to buy items for their church.”
Using coupons to save money is familiar territory to Basil. Her frugality is part of what led her to start the Swap and Sell group. She is so proficient in the use of coupons that she, like her Dorchester friends, has begun to use her prowess to help those less fortunate. At the moment, she and her friend Laura Wooters are using their knack for finding a bargain to help out local women’s shelters. They use coupons to buy multiples of razors, toothpaste, and other personal hygiene items. “Laura is working to make up baskets that we can donate,” says Basil. “We just need to find the right place that will accept our donations.”
Finding a place that accepted contributions proved difficult for Basil when she was first attempting to donate the excess food she collected after using coupons. “The First Wesleyan Church was the only place that would accept my donation,” says Basil.
When Basil decided to branch out from the online group and offer an in-person flea market, with over 30 Swap and Sell members selling their goods to the general public, she approached the church about hosting it. At the Second Chance Sale, those who wanted to shop in the first hour were required to bring in a non-perishable food item or $5. “We figured roughly $1000 worth of food was donated to the church,” continues Basil.
The next Second Chance Sale will be held March 10th. It will follow the same guidelines as the first, hoping to bring in as much, if not more, non-perishable food donations. “The First Wesleyan Church had to reduce the amount of times per month their food bank is open,” says Basil. “The bad economy has really cut the number of donations they receive.”
In addition to collecting non-perishable items for the church’s food pantry, there will be a bake sale and a raffle.
Basil has proven herself to be industrious, entrepreneurial, and generous through herr philanthropic approach to both coupons and her Swap and Sell endeavor. When asked for tips for those who might wish to follow her example of charitable couponing she says, “Check out local coupon websites like Frugal Family Fun, get to know your store’s policies, check the weekly flyers. Once your pantry is full, you can start collecting for a local charity.” In times like these, those who are in need are fortunate to have the thrifty among us finding creative ways to stock local charities coffers.
Editor's note: Wendy Basil wishes to acknowledge Renee Murphy and Michelle Anderson as the administer the Dorchester Swap and Sell page, and Christy Woertz for her essential role in the Second Chance Sales.