Free Store Fourth Birthday Party Draws Crowd

Max Anzilotti , Staff Writer

When a Free Store throws a party, one expects to get free stuff. There certainly was plenty of it at the Free Store’s fourth birthday party, which was held in the store itself — a small room in the Asia House basement — on Wednesday, March 23. The music was free. The cupcakes were free. So were the sweaters, taco mix and frog-shaped humidifiers.

The event drew a large and exuberant crowd. Among those in attendance was College sophomore Lila Leatherman.

“I’m really enthusiastic about the Free Store,” she said. “I think it’s a great way to reuse things that wouldn’t otherwise get reused, and also it’s a great resource if you need clothes or if you just want to browse.”

When asked if she had a favorite Free Store find, Leatherman said she once got “a pair of American Apparel jersey knit yoga pants that make my legs feel like they’re in heaven.”

Wednesday’s party saw some similarly fortuitous discoveries. College sophomore Clarissa Fortier, who was planning on going backpacking over spring break, scored a first-aid kit and two water bottles.

“This is perfect!” she exclaimed. “The Free Store always has what I need!”

Oberlin’s Resource Conservation Team, a group of students employed and overseen by Facilities Operations that is committed to helping the College reduce the amount of resources it uses and wastes, runs the Free Store. In addition to running the Free Store, the RCT oversees the Big Swap at the end of each semester and monitors the College’s recycling. They also play an important role in Earth Week.

The Free Store was started, said College sophomore and RCT member Corey Harkins, because “the Oberlin Recyclers [now the RCT] saw that there were a lot of wasted clothes going in the dumpster at the end of every semester.” Creating a store where students could donate clothes and other unwanted items, they decided, would decrease waste and help students save money.

Harkins and College junior Heather Sedlacek, also of the RCT, were on hand Wednesday as the party’s master and mistress of ceremonies. They dressed accordingly: Sedlacek, in bright colors and a billowing skirt, was a “Free Store fairy;” Harkins, wearing black clothes and white makeup, was a “free mime” — on roller-skates. Harkins spent much of the evening wheeling around the store, carrying a clipboard on which he kept track of attendance and the number of items taken and donated.

Sixty people came to the store in the party’s first half-hour. The Free Store’s average number of visitors is 150 per month.

Harkins and the rest of the RCT said that they would like to see more people in the Free Store.

“There are some great finds here, but people don’t come down here often enough to find them,” he said. “This is one of our opportunities to remind people that we’re here, we’re free and we’re fun!”

Certainly many at Wednesday’s party would agree. College sophomore Lizzie Parmenter put it best. “I came for the cake,” she said, “(and) stayed for the clothes and the company.”