HY-Swap volunteers prepare for semi-annual event

Bags of donations for the HY-Swap are left at the drop-off sites and sorted into categories. Photo courtesy of Sarah Bendoraitis

By NICOLE O’NEILL — Now that the donation period for the fall HY-Swap has closed, volunteers for the semi-annual event have an important, and somewhat tedious task ahead of them.

The Hyattsville Nurturing Moms’ HY-Swap will take place at the Hyattsville Municipal Building on Saturday, Oct. 19 from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. At the swap, new and expecting parents can scoop up  children’s clothes, toys, gear, and books for free. All the donations come from families in the community, and this semi-annual event is completely propped up by volunteers.

This two-day event takes relies on about 75 volunteers who put it all together, according to Sarah Bendoraitis. Bendoraitis, who started out as HY-Swap volunteer, is now the event’s communications director. The event’s organizers typically prepare for about 400-500 families shopping for their young children, according to Bendoraitis.

Volunteers put in a lot of hours and work to make sure the event runs smoothly. Megan Libby-Mueller, a veteran volunteer who currently serves on the board of HY-Swap, said that she used to put in 20-30 hours of preparation work a week. Libby-Mueller has since scaled back her hours and now trains other mothers to take on larger responsibilities. Although the volunteers work hard, they also enjoy what they are doing. One of Libby-Mueller’s favorite jobs is to take donations at the door, where she sees all the new faces coming in.

“It is so special to have all these people who can give camaraderie, support and advice,” she said.

The volunteers spend a lot of time sorting donations and making the venue feel like a store. As goods come in, volunteers organize donations into four categories: clothes, gear, toys and books.

The donation period usually lasts for six weeks, but this time around, it was cut down to four weeks, according to Bendoraitis.

This year there were drop-off sites in Beltsville, Riverdale, Langley Park, and Mount Rainier where people could leave goods at any time. Volunteers pick up donations from these sites and transport them to the sort locations.

In the past, the group used a single sort location run out of Emily Palus’s home. Palus lives in Hyattsville and is a regular HY-Swap volunteer. This year, organizers are experimenting with six sorting locations to give Palus a break, said Bendoraitis. Volunteers organize the donations for delivery to the Hyattsville Municipal Building.

“Most of my favorite times are when we are sorting donations, because it’s a group of women that you know and don’t know, and you do a lot of talking,” said Katie Bergfeld, a volunteer and HY-Swap coordinator.

The volunteers are not done with their work after the sorting period, though, as donations still come in during a one-hour time slot, from 9 to 10 a.m., on the morning of the event. Last-minute donations are usually large items such as cribs, bikes, mattresses and strollers.

“This is something that makes this community special,” said Libby-Mueller, “I love everything about it.”

HY-Swap is a completely free event which solely relies on donations and the help of volunteers. Monetary donations are greatly appreciated for these reasons. They accept donations at the event, or at their GoFundMe page, www.gofundme.com/hyswap.

“What I really found out of it is this amazing group of parents trying to reduce the amount of stuff in the world,” said Bendoraitis.

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