Last Updated: Apr 27th, 2015 - 11:04:56

Clothing swap group gains a following
By Ashley McLeod, Staff Writer
Aug 19, 2014, 10:22

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO People look through items during a recent clothing swap.
HOPEWELL — With the motto “swapping is the new shopping,” the Clothing Swap for the Tri-Cities Area started with a boom, and keeps growing larger every month.

Beginning in March, the swap served around 200 people. Then in April, it grew to 400 people. In May there were just around 600 people supplied with much-needed clothing and other available items.

The clothing swap was started by Sherry Markel in order to help those in need, who have been downsized at work, or are having to choose between paying for housing, or utilities, or clothing for their children.

“There is a need for certain things out there, and you never really know how many people are in need,” Markel said. “Some people have enough money to pay their electric bill and a few other bills, but then your child also needs clothes.”

The swap is also a way to downsize on items in your own closet, recycling items no longer being used, which are still usable to others.

The clothing swap started with the Markel family cleaning out their closets and home and collecting items that were not being used anymore. Then the family, including her children, reached out to friends and other relatives, collecting as much as possible.

Every item collected for the clothing swap is inspected, washed, and sanitized by Markel. All of the items at the swap are in good condition, and anything collected that is not will not be put out during the swap.

“If it’s not something you could find in one of our closets, quality wise, then it’s not given out to anybody else,” said Nicky Hios, one of the volunteers at the clothing swap.

The items at the clothing swap include men’s, women’s, children, and baby sizes, from newborn to 5x. The swap also has household items, toys, books, jewelry and some furniture available for anyone and everyone to take.

“We try to keep as much as we can out of the landfills and into people’s homes that can use them, but only if it is in good condition,” Hios said. “We take pride in being able to say that it’s stuff you’d find at least in a thrift store, and probably better quality than what you’d find at thrift stores.”

While the swap began as a means to help those in need, it has grown to become a community wide item swap, with no money involved.

Markel, along with Hios and manager Teri Lovin, volunteer their own time and money to make the swap happen every month.

During the swap, people can bring items such as clothes to the swap to contribute. Any community member can browse through all of the items at the swap, and then take with them anything they wish to take. There is no money exchanged, and no payments made. Every item is free of charge, and you can take as much as you want, or need, even if you were unable to donate to the swap.

“There is no limit on how much you bring, or how much you take. It’s not a hand out, it’s a hand up, and we’re not just helping these people, but with them paying it forward, they’re helping others as well,” Hios said.

The swap is run solely on donations from the community. People donate from all over the area, including Hopewell, Prince George, Chester, and even Richmond. Markel will meet people to pick up donations, as well as visiting yard sales and estate sales and pick up unsold items.

Everything is stored at Markel’s house, and inspected and washed there as well. The items brought in during the swap are stored and taken home with Markel, so she can go through all of the donations, make sure they are in good condition, and then wash or sanitize each item. These items are then used in the next month’s swap.

On the days of the swaps, car and truck loads of items are brought to the site of the swap and set up for the community to view and take. The swap is organized in sections, women’s clothing in one area, children in another, just as regular stores would be set up for shopping.

The clothing swap began at the Hopewell Moose Lodge, but will now be held at Woodlawn Baptist Church in Hopewell. The next swap will be held Saturday, August 23, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and will be a Back to School Extravaganza, focusing on children’s needs while going back to school. Backpacks, lunchboxes, and any school supply donations are being taken right now for the swap on Saturday, which will also feature a hairdresser, who will be giving back to school haircuts to the children. The swap will still have other items as normal, such as shoes, purses, baby items, toys, pictures, books, nick-knacks, and small household items.

The swap is in place solely to help out the community, and those struggling, whether it is due to those losing jobs, taking pay cuts, losing a parent, or whatever circumstance there is. The goal of the swap is to help anyone and everyone in the community.

“This is how we want to bring up our kids, that to help people is a good thing, no matter what,” Markel said.

Every community member is encouraged to come, whether they are able to donate to the swap or not. Donations can be given at any time, not just the day of the swap. The swap relies on community members help to continue taking place and growing each month. Without donations, and the community helping, the swap would not be what it has grown to be.

“People always say thank you for what you do, but it’s a team effort. It wouldn’t be what it is without all these people donating,” Markel said.

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