As you may know, the Free Clothing Exchange was started in 2013 by five families looking to solve a problem: what to do with the boat loads of clothes their little tikes burn through and how can they maybe save a little money on fresh duds for little Jimmy and Annabelle as they go from size 2 to 3 to 4 to…you get the picture.
And so the Free Clothing Exchange was born, and for about two years things were great.
We soon expanded the Exchange to be an event that’s not just for kids, but for men and women of all ages, sizes and incomes. There's no obligation to donate or bring clothes in order to participate and take home a new-to-you outfit or two.
The Exchange met in the Kenton Library’s modest, but serviceable community room, until one day we looked at the line of Friendly Exchangers stretching past the library’s check out kiosk and almost to the front door, quietly, respectfully folding and trying on their clothes and we realized we had out grown the space.
Libraries are fantastic for quiet study. Not so great for the boisterous, clothes-swapping, bazaar of style the North Portland’s Free Clothing Exchange had become.
We said thank you and good bye to the patient, generous staff at the Kenton Library and moved a mile east to the gymnasium at De La Salle North.
Here we had space to grow. Space right off the MAX and the bus line at meeting of Interstate and Lombard. We had such great plans for our new space, mixed with the perfect quotient of high hopes.
Our Summer 2015 Exchange served almost 60 households. Things were great. Stuff was awesome. Clothes were being swapped like nobody’s business. You know where this story is going.
Shortly after that summer exchange, some core members of our team moved away. Life took them in another direction.
The fall came and there was no Exchange. Then winter came and went and there was still no Exchange. The term “hiatus” started being thrown around when folks asked us how it was going. When was the next Exchange? Hiatus.
But you know how it is when you’re a part of something that’s too good to let die. That’s exactly how I felt. I realized that the Exchange helped a lot of people, kids and adults, plus it’s just fun. It needs to live on.
So I asked my friends, many of whom had never participated in the Exchange, if this is something they could get behind. Like give up three hours of your weekend get behind. They said yes.
And that brings us to where we are today. Planning the next Free Clothing Exchange for Sunday, April 3rd, 2016. We hope you’ll join us.
We are really excited about what's ahead for the Free Clothing Exchange, which is BTW, not just for kids, but, I might reiterate for everyone - infant to eulogy.
This Spring we’ll be adding toys and books for children. In the future, we hope to add dressing rooms, a photo booth and, for reals this time, the opportunity for you Exchangers to really run the show.
The Free Clothing Exchange is a completely volunteer-run non-profit and we’d love for you to get involved. Our aim is for everything to go and to go for free. Help us us get there.