BY KRISSI HUMBARD — Starting a family can be expensive, buying clothing and toys and equipment. And we all know kids grow up fast, often outgrowing things before they’ve really even used them. So, why not share those barely used items?
That’s the thought behind the Hyattsville Nurturing Moms’ HY-Swap.
“HY-Swap is a super community ‘pay-it-forward.’ Having kids can turn lives up-side-down, and there is so much need for gear, and clothes, and just stuff,” says “Swap Maven” and event organizer Emily Palus. “There is a lot of joy to starting a family, and a lot of costs. We certainly benefitted from the generosity of others, and through the swap, we organized a systematic cycle to help move items through the community.”
The swap has evolved over the years, now happening twice a year. Families donate items at a few drop-off locations around Hyattsville for about a month before the event. A team of volunteers then spend hours at “sorting soirees” sorting through the donations and getting items ready for the swap.
“There is a lot of camaraderie, women and men coming together to plan, sort, haul, set-up, host and breakdown. A lot of friendships have been made,” Palus said. “And while there is work, it’s a lot of fun.”
One mom said she first heard about the swap when her son was 2 months old (he’s 2 years old now). “I couldn’t believe that I could go get things I really needed for free,” said Annie Armstrong. “I signed up to volunteer that day!” Armstrong continued, “It means so much to my family that we can get a season’s worth of clothes, books, and toys twice a year and also pass along what we are done with but still has so much life. It just makes so much sense!”
Hy-Swap Volunteer Coordinator Heather McAndrews credits the moms in Hyattsville for helping to keep her sane as a new mom. She said the swap embodies Hyattsville’s spirit. “I think [the HY-swap] really promotes the true nature of Hyattsville and gets more families involved in the community. It really helps it be the village it takes to raise children.”
At the Fall HY-Swap on Oct. 14, 73 volunteers helped before and during the event; and 312 families “shopped” the swap. The fall swap’s donations equalled 199 boxes and bags of clothing, 83 boxes of books and toys, and 33 boxes of gear. There were also a lot of big items like strollers, car seats, cribs, bouncers, and jumpers — so much so that the volunteers set up tents in the parking lot. The total donations were equivalent to about 1,500 cubic feet. The Fall HY-Swap had more volunteers and items donated than the last swap in the spring of 2016.
The swap not only helps neighbors in this community: Many of the leftover items from the swap were donated to the College Park Pregnancy Aid Center.
“At the end of the day, when the swap is over and my porch and basement recovered, and family back in a sound routine, overhearing people say, ‘oh, I got this at the swap,’ makes me smile every time I hear it, and makes it all worth while,” Palus said.
The Spring ’18 HY-Swap is scheduled for April 21, 2018.