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The Buy Nothing Project has St. Louisans gifting items to neighbors for free

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. – It started as and idea in Washington that has rippled across the country, landing here in the St. Louis metro. It’s called the Buy Nothing Project. The idea is to establish good will in the community by creating a gifting economy in local neighborhoods.

Kim Martin, an administrator of the Buy Nothing Project Facebook Group in Oakville & Mehlville, explains to FOX2Now that these groups are different than your standard buy, sell, trade group since everything is exchanged for free. There is no monetary value, everything is gifted.

“I think it has been phenomenal,” Martin explains. “A lot of people are out of work their finances have changed, there’s a lot of people home now during the day, working from home, so exchanging these gifts has been extremely important and extremely valuable.”

Commonly gifted items include clothing, baby items, household goods, outdoor tools, plants, and produce. A primary purpose of the group is to reduce, reuse, and repurpose.

There are also groups in Arnold, Ballwin, Clayton, Kirkwood, St. Louis City, University City, among others.

Once you’re in the group it’s easy to see what items are most valuable, and it’s not the ‘stuff’.

“You learn what’s more important than the stuff, is actually the connections that you are making with your neighbors,” Martin explains. “That is the mission of the Buy Nothing Group. It’s not so much the items, but actually getting to know your neighbors, and getting to know the people around you.”

Through the Buy Nothing Project Martin has met people who live down the street from her that she never met in her 30 years of living in the neighborhood. Martin says those kinds of encounters are going on all across Mehlville and Oakville.

Most acknowledge it’s easier to give than to receive.

“While it’s hard for people to go on and ask for something, we have encouraged people: don’t be afraid. We are your neighbor. Let us know if you are struggling,” Martin explains. “People come on and say, ‘ya know, payday is not until Friday and I’m really low on groceries.’ You watch neighbors that come in and say ‘I’m cleaning out my pantry and there’s so much in here we don’t even need. I’ll be happy to drop it off on your porch this afternoon.'”

Many that receive give “gratitude posts” on the Facebook page, thanking those who helped them.

With exchanging of items during a pandemic comes caution. The Buy Nothing Project in Mehlville and Oakville has had to amend person to person encounters. Porch pickups have been exchanged for in-person meetings.

“We have done more porch pickups than we would like, but it’s ok. It’s ok during the pandemic that’s what we have to do.”

In March, the group had to press pause limiting exchanges only to people who need essentials, like food, diapers, and necessary home items. However, the page was always open for motivation and encouragement. The Mehlville and Oakville page has since reopened for all exchanges, but still limits person to person meet ups.

The St. Louis neighborhood Buy Nothing Project confirms to FOX2 they are currently pressing pause on all exchanges due to rising COVID-19 numbers.

The philosophy is to give where you live. To learn more and find a group near you, check out the Buy Nothing Project’s site.

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