Every day at Transition Town Media’s Free Store is full of stories about how this approach affects people. One day a woman came in with two small children, clearly in distress, in the middle of a court case to escape an abusive partner.
She had left the family home with nothing. “You mean I can just have these plates? And these glasses? These books for the kids? Does this toaster work? Can I have that too?” It was a lifeline when she most needed one. Every day brings stories like this.
The FreeStore opened June 1, 2014. People bring things they no longer need or want that would otherwise go unused or end up in a landfill, and other people can then take it, without paying. In an annex rented from the local Methodist Church, visitors can help themselves to anything in the shop, and also donate things for other people. For the group it is a project, with over 20 active volunteers, that connects people and shifts their thinking. “People talk to each other differently in the Store”, they say. It’s a story, a spirit and a project beautifully captured in the beautiful video above, made especially for ’21 Stories of Transition’. Given how lovely the video is, we’ll only tell you a couple more things about it, and share some photos of what it’s like.
People experience what its co-ordinators call “a compassion-building exercise”.
The Store is open 5 days a week, 23-33 hours per week, sustained by a team of 85 volunteers. Organisers tell of a very conventional, later middle-aged suburban woman whose hair dryer broke. She told staff at the Free Store, “the ‘old me’ would have gone out and bought 2 new ones. The ‘new me’ is in here asking if anyone has one”. Free Stores have also emerged in Transition communities from Berlin in Germany to Crediton in England, and they are spreading. In a world where people increasingly measure their identity in the context of their relationships to consumer goods, we may be seeing a lot more Free Shops.
"Please keep in mind that people want to do the right thing. They want to do things that help each other. Programmes to tackle climate change should be inclusive, promoting self help, spontaneity, an improvisational approach. Come and volunteer at the free store. Dust some shelves, flatten some cardboard. Another world is possible, it just takes some imagination. And some funding would be nice!"
Sari Steuber, Transition Town Media