This week's ReConsumEyes features Cameron Allshouse, a native of Pittsfield (Shire City), MA, and mom of two. She lives her life as a conscious consumer and keeps well educated and up to date with the latest recommendations of how to live a sustainable life. One thing that surprised her on her journey was the huge influx of "stuff" that came into her life with the birth of her first child. The giant tidal wave of tiny clothing, toys and other miscellaneous baby care items soon overwhelmed her, and her husband. And the pile only got larger as their daughter grew and they had a second child.
Cameron and her hubby had so much ‘stuff’ that they began to store it away wondering what best to do with it all. So much of what they had, and didn’t need, was in nearly new condition and could be useful to someone with a child at the appropriate stage. Small batches of sentimental things were passed on to friends and relatives, but still there was so much more. Funnily enough, at the same time, it was difficult to find the clothes and toys needed for her children’s next stages without buying new. Even knowing many other people with children, hand-me-downs were few and far between. In 2010 Cameron decided to create a venue to purge all the amazing, useful kid-gear she had that was going unused, and find some gently used things to accommodate her children’s progress. The Giveaway was created when Cameron sorted out all of her family’s outgrown toys and clothing and set it up, tag sale style, in her backyard dance studio. She spread the word at local baby groups, Berkshire County La Leche League, and to friends and family. She asked people to bring items they were not using and take items that would be useful. New homes were found for the vast majority of clean, organized and barely used toys, clothing, and gear. The remainder was donated to local groups such as Redfield House and The Kids' Place. The event was a huge success.
Since then, The Giveaway, has grown and expanded to a twice-a-year event. Cameron partners with local women's group GROW to help, get the word out and with all the sorting and setup. Last fall over 50 families participated and the number grows each time. People continually express amazement at the volume, and quality of items donated and up for grabs. There are always even a few brand new items with tags still on, most often, in newborn sizes, leftover from baby shower gifts. It is overwhelming to see the overconsumption that occurs for a tiny new one who will grow out of things so quickly, and Cameron has figured out how to diminish that perfectly!
The event appeals to many different people. It is great for like-minded parents, and, is smart, financially. People can know this happens twice a year and plan to get items at The Giveaway instead of putting out money they may not have. There have even been teachers who have picked up supplies for their classrooms, including extra clothes for kids who show up unprepared for weather and need to borrow something. It is a way for people to try greener options with out a big investment. Cloth diapers make a regular appearance and are a great way for people who are curious to try them out.
Another wonderful aspect is the exposure to reuse for people who don't regularly practice it. When people arrive and see the well cared for goods available for free – they see their kids’ excitement, and it illustrates how happy kids are with things that are just new - to them. There are often beautiful handmade items that people don't want to just drop in a box somewhere, but feel like they have a better chance of finding a good home through this small local venue. The whole event is also a special lesson for the kids involved. They learn they don't need to ask for all kinds of stuff at the store all the time because there is the toy swap to look forward to instead.
This Spring's goodies include puzzles, games, stuffed animals, hats, socks, shoes, baby, toddler, and kids' clothes, maternity clothes, coats, costumes, cloth diapers, a desk, a bouncy seat, books, movies, sippy cups and much more. On Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/events/322161414500735/ and Gathered Resources of Women's online calendar http://gatheredwomen.org/calendar/ .
Come check it out at 88 Sheffield Street, Pittsfield, MA, off of Highland Avenue, Friday April 27th 4pm - 7pm, Saturday April 28th 10am - 4pm, and Sunday April 29th 10 - 4pm.