Secondhand News: HY-SWAP reflects community spirit of paying it forward

April 9, 2016

The spring kids swap took place on April 9 at the Hyattsville Municipal Building. Photo courtesy Rebecca Bennett.
BY LAUREN FLYNN KELLY —

BY LAUREN FLYNN KELLY —

Shortly after moving to Hyattsville in 2012, I attended my first family picnic organized by the online group Hyattsville Nurturing (HN) Moms. As children played and families mingled in King Park, I recall browsing various children’s items laid out on a blanket — bibs, burp cloths, shoes, even a Halloween costume or two — all up for grabs. Having just moved from a community where the only secondhand shop in town was an upscale children’s boutique that wouldn’t even look at my hand-me-downs, I knew I’d landed in the right place.

Fast forward to four years later and the freebies are displayed on much more than a blanket, thanks to several motivated members of the HN Moms subgroup Knuffle Moms who host the bi-annual HY-SWAP. Event organizer Emily Palus explained that the “first iteration” of the swap was at a picnic hosted by the Knuffles in Spring 2014. After witnessing a successful exchange of used goods there, Palus sensed that a stand-alone swap would be welcomed by the community.

And it was. Approximately 90 families shopped the first official HY-SWAP in the fall of 2014, which was held at the Masonic Lodge next to King Park on Gallatin Street. Palus said the volume of goods received kept the swap going for several hours and encouraged the group to make it a bi-annual event.

The spring swap is on April 9 and will take place in the multipurpose room of the Hyattsville Municipal Building to accommodate the ever-increasing number of swappers. Palus was quick to praise the Masonic Lodge — Mount Hermon Lodge No. 179 — for being an “awesome partner” in sharing their space as well as providing CHIP, the free program which provides parents an expedited means to find their children should they ever go missing. The spring swap is open to all Hyattsville families, members of HN Moms and its subgroups and those belonging to Hy-area babysitting co-ops and other local parent groups. And to keep kids entertained throughout the day, the event featured an arts project with ArtWorks Now from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., followed by a story hour.

Another new addition this year is a “preview reception” for new and expecting moms, held from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on April 8. Palus recalled that at previous swaps, there’s usually a “mad rush at the beginning, which is understandable but can be overwhelming for some, especially new moms who aren’t even sure what they need.” As a result, they can now shop the swap in a more relaxed environment, where some “veteran mom” volunteers will be on-hand to answer questions, and a few will even give “spoken mom” performances, telling stories of pregnancy, motherhood and other adventures, said Palus.

The HY-SWAP now has 30 volunteers, including six families that offered their homes as drop-off sites throughout March and held “sorting soirees” to wade through everything. Items collected include maternity and children’s clothing, which will be sorted by type and size at the swap, as well as gently used toys, bedding, books and nursing supplies. Although many off-season items will be held for the next swap, other surplus goods will go to three area charities: The Homeless Children’s Playtime Project, Pregnancy Aid Center and Community of Hope – the Family Health and Birth Center. Palus added that she expects there will be enough donations to replenish the inventory throughout the four-hour event, so there won’t be any need to stake out a spot on line before it starts.

So why doesn’t the HY-SWAP charge for the items, like other nearby secondhand sales? “It’s the Hyattsville way…to give and exchange, to pay it forward,” said Palus with a smile. “We really like that it’s free. And you don’t have to give to take.”

Palus said her hope for the future of the swap is that it continues to exist and evolve as long as there are organizers and volunteers willing and able to take it on. “We have now written down a lot of our process, so it can be a ‘cook book’ for others to take up.” And while she’s game for organizing a few more herself, she imagines that another “swap maven” will surface in the next few years. In the meantime, Palus is already gearing up for the fall swap slated to take place on Sept. 24.