BY LAUREN FLYNN KELLY — More than 200 families picked their way through thousands of kids and maternity items up for grabs on Oct. 22, thanks to the organizers of the bi-annual HY-Swap and the many local families who donated the gently used goods. The event has grown from 90 families “shopping” the first official HY-Swap in the fall of 2014 to 202 families at the most recent event, which took place at the Hyattsville Municipal Building.
While the swap has been open to Hyattsville families and their friends in the past, this was the first time the event was fully opened to the public, starting at 12:30 p.m. Doors opened on Saturday at 10 a.m., when a line of swappers was already waiting outside. And pregnant and new mommies got a chance to peruse the goods the night before at a special two-hour preview reception.
“This is a massive pay-it-forward. The swap was inspired by the generous hand-me-downs we received with our first kids, and now volunteers step up because they have benefitted from the swap in the past and want to give back,” said self-proclaimed “swap maven” Emily Palus. “Plus, we have a lot of fun organizing the event and sorting the donations. This is an expanding circle of women who network and provide support for each other, while sifting and sorting donations, and snagging adorable outfits along the way.”
Palus, who co-founded the event with members of the Knuffle Moms, a subgroup of the Hyattsville Nurturing Moms (HNMoms) online group, said donations were collected over a period of five weeks and amounted to 204 boxes and bags of clothing and linens and an additional 100 boxes of toys and other gear. She credited the City of Hyattsville for allowing the group to continue to use the multipurpose room and the 46 volunteers whose roles included collecting, sorting, setting up and taking monetary donations at the door to cover supply costs. She added that breaking down the event took just 90 minutes, compared to the eight-plus hours volunteers spent on Friday transporting the items to the space. “And thanks to a very clever volunteer who arranged for a Haul Cargo van that made the move faster in three runs,” she said.
The event was obviously a success, judging from the number of swappers, which rose from 165 families attending in the spring, and the sizable amount of remaining donations they were able to contribute to the College Park Pregnancy Center, Family Crisis Center of Prince George’s County, and the Community of Hope Family Health and Birth Center. Maryland State Delegate Anne Healey (District 22, Prince George’s County) also visited the swap.
“It was such an amazing event, with a great crowd and enthusiastic volunteers,” Palus said. “It’s so fulfilling to see families filling bags of adorable clothes — head-to-toe wardrobes for their children — and adding to their book and toy collections without spending any money. We aim to put out quality items in good condition, making free truly fabulous.”
Hyattsville mom Jamila Larson raved about the event. “There are many unique aspects of our community that make Hyattsville stand out, but it is the clothing swap that is one of my favorites,” she said. “It just makes sense to me to share hand-me-downs, and the clothing, gear, books and toys at the swap are just beautiful. Everything is organized so well, and the volunteers were more attentive and helpful than staff at a boutique!”
Shoppers of the swap were also looking out for each other, as moms routinely put unwanted items back in their place and kept an eye out for things their friends needed. “Instead of people competing for the best stuff, the spirit in the swap is so generous,” Larson added. For example, a dad she didn’t even know traveled across the room to share something in her baby’s size. “Everybody is so deferential and helpful, you just leave with the best feeling in the world about how much goodness there is in our corner of the world! Now my laundry basket is overflowing in exactly what my baby needs for the season. I am so grateful to all of the organizers and volunteers!”
To learn more about the HY-Swap, visit the website.