Cross Austin Boulevard: This story is one in a series of ongoing articles published by Austin Weekly News about issues, events, people, places and things happening west of Austin Boulevard, but which nonetheless resonate with is also.
It all started with an old teddy bear.
âMy daughter had this teddy bear that she had always clung to and one day she said she didn’t want it anymore, but I didn’t want to just throw it away,â said Connie Moreland, Oak doctor. Park, who solved the dilemma. after visiting her 26-year-old daughter’s apartment in Chicago’s Uptown community.
âI went to visit her and she had all these little things in her apartment and I asked her where they were from. She said, ‘I got them from my free group,’ âsaid Moreland. âI started to think about it and asked him why we didn’t have one at Oak Park. I told her about it and she said, “You should start one.”
This is exactly what Moreland did by creating the private Facebook group “Free To Good Home” in November 2019 – just before the start of the COVID pandemic. Since then, the group has grown to approximately 4,600 members in Oak Park, other western suburbs and the West Side of Chicago.
Members can register by invitation or by contacting Moreland and her co-administrator, Antoinette Ivy. The rules are simple: be kind and courteous, respect everyone’s privacy, no hate speech or bullying, and absolutely no buying or selling of any kind.
Another rule, less explicit, is that not everything that is published can be subject to a means test. If it’s free, it’s free. No strings attached.
âOur mission is basically to break down barriers, connect with each other, break isolation, make friends and extend goodwill across the socio-economic barriers we have,â said Moreland said.
“Someone well off might also need something,” she said. âWe don’t care. You want it, then it’s up to you. We intentionally try to exclude this stuff. If someone posts something to say, âI want this to go to a family in needâ, we’ll edit it and say, âJust put it here. Stop that.'”
Some of the group’s recent offerings include a Rubbermaid container cover, Canon inkjet cartridges, a cedar chest, teaching books, and candles (the latter donated by Moreland herself).
âThe group’s goal is to recycle and reuse,â Ivy said. âWe want to be good for the earth. It is also a group that values ââpositive community engagement. For me, it stands out from the group. Particularly during the pandemic, this has been a way of feeling connected when a lot of people felt isolated or hesitant, especially at first, to go to stores. “
Evelyn Alvarado, who lives in the Galewood neighborhood of Austin, said she bought some furniture through the Facebook group.
âMost furniture today is not made of wood, and real wood furniture is very expensive,â Alvarado said. âThat way I don’t have to buy real wood furniture. I just grab the items through Free to Good Home and turn them into more modern pieces.
Janet Lorch, who lives in Oak Park, said she had “literally donated hundreds of things” to the Facebook group, which she says is more than a free online bazaar.
âWhen you have something your daughter has played with that she will never play with again, but she doesn’t want to hang on to it, the feeling that it will go to another family that will truly appreciate her makes me feel really connected to the community, âsaid Lorch. âPeople sent me pictures they took to show me how something was used. “
Moreland’s vision for the group goes beyond the confines of cyberspace, describing the popular Facebook group she created as a way to bond very materially.
Last month, she hosted a free flea market in Rehm Park, which she hopes to host again next year. Moreland said she wanted to start “quite a free movement” in Oak Park and the surrounding suburbs.
âI have a motto,â she says. âEverything we need, we already have it. In our community, we don’t have to buy anything. â¦ It’s amazing how people give like that.
CONTACT: [email protected]