Everyone has stuff that they don’t use – and many of us have too much stuff. Rather than letting those unused items take up space in our homes, sit in storage, or make their way into the waste stream, a Free Store offers the alternative to pass them on to others who could make good use of them. The Whittier Time Bank is gearing up to build Make Space: Free Store and Artisan Work Lab.
Slated to open in Summer 2015, the Whittier Free Store - like a consignment shop, but the items are free - will accept donations of unused items in good condition and offer those items to the general public.
So why build a Free Store?
Sharing helps people save money. The Whittier Free Store will also help people build connections with neighbors and the community by sharing their stuff.
Sharing is good for the environment, reducing our carbon footprint through reuse and recycling. Reducing the waste stream also helps save local funds spent on waste management.
The Artisan Work Lab (opening in 2016) will work in tandem with the Free Store. Local artists will have access to the Free Store’s diverted waste stream materials to make fine art as well as traditional and folk art. The Artisan Work Lab will offer technical workshops in the craft and business of art, provide access to an artisan tool library, and cultivate relationships with local boutiques to commission artisan work. These wraparound services will build local artisan, restoration and repair businesses.
Whittier Free Store Membership:
- Everyone is welcome to a free membership, which will allow them to shop for free and to donate unused items that are clean and in good condition.
- Supporting Members will have access to additional benefits, like additional store items, exclusive shopping days, and parties. We save up special items year-round for Supporting Member events.
More About The Free Store:
Let’s share the abundance! Free Store members make space in their homes by donating unwanted clothing, books, or other household items, instead of sending them to the landfill or paying for storage. And instead of buying new products shipped from far away factories, members meet more of their needs with locally sourced items provided by neighbors for free! Membership is free with an orientation, which includes an overview of partner organization services offered throughout the month at The Whole Place.
We can share our unused “stuff” with each other to make connections with our community and help each other. We see how much there is to share and how what we share can benefit others. It not only saves us from the scarcity mentality that tells us to acquire more stuff, it also deepens our connections with others. We realize how building relationships and community connectedness can fill our needs. We believe everyone has something of value to share – and while the Free Store will help you share your “stuff,” it will bring you into a space that will allow you to connect with others and share your unique talents and skills with the community.
The Free Store is located in Uptown, the social and business center of Whittier. The converted classroom (about 500 square feet) is found upstairs in the First Christian Church Education Building, 12907 Hadley Street Whittier, CA 90601.
In the past three months, we have:
Sorted surplus furniture, books, and equipment ** Removed debris ** Cleaned off forty years of dust from windows and floors ** Removed a broken sink ** Patched rain-damaged walls and ceiling ** Replaced fallen ceiling tiles ** Painted the walls, ceiling, and store display furniture ** Removed obsolete fluorescent lighting
Your pledges will pay for:
A database designed to track membership and inventory: By adding bar code labels to our inventory, we’ll be able to track the value and tonnage of the waste stream diverted through the Free Store. We’ll also be able to send automatic event alerts and other Free Store updates to our members. ** Computer with printer, bar code scanner, software: Not only needed for our database and social media, this equipment also tracks outgoing inventory and lets us sign people up for Free Store and Time Bank membership on site. ** Lighting! We’re installing energy-efficient LED track lighting. ** Secondhand display cases, shelving, racks, tables, bins, and a canvas window curtain ** We’re replacing the broken, child-sized sink cabinet (and keeping the vintage sink and hardware). ** Permanent outdoor Whittier Free Store signage.
Stretch goals: When we exceed our goal, we will apply surplus funds to our Phase 2 project, the Artisan Work Lab.
Artisan Work Lab:
In Phase 2 of our project (2016), we’ll divert surplus goods collected by the Free Store into the Artisan Work Lab (AWL), a small business incubator, artisan/artist tool library, and co-work studio. Paid AWL memberships will provide artisans with access to studio space, equipment, and business support which they otherwise might not be able to afford on an individual basis. Mid-career artists will provide mentorship and teach workshops. Support waste stream diversion: Imagine new fashion found in old clothes, found objects turned into sculpture, printmaking on any surface, and housewares transformed into valuable works of functional art. Membership dues will create financial sustainability for the Make Space project by paying for staff, tool maintenance, and other project costs.
Artisan Work Lab resources will include:
A screen printing carousel to create new prints on used t-shirts and totes ** A textile tool suite ** A jewelry and decor tool suite ** A laser cutter / engraver ** Materials to create a dedicated interior mural wall (available by the week) ** Art and business workshops ** Art and business mentors
Our history: The Whole Place at First Christian Church -- a community possibility engine -- donated two unused classrooms for the Free Store and Artisan Work Lab, located in the Uptown Whittier shopping district, and we’ve been refurbishing these classrooms with the help of community members throughout 2015 -- see our video!
Our partners: The Whittier Free Store also acts as a brick-and-mortar anchor for other projects at The Whole Place at First Christian Church, like Trade School LA education for barter and UC Cooperative Extension Master Food Preserver workshops. We’re coordinating with these organizations to make available in Whittier resources that were once a long drive away: Master Food Preservers was only available in Santa Monica, Trade School LA was only available in Highland Park, and small art business development has only been available in places like Culver City. We are installing cutting edge resources and transforming Whittier from a bedroom community to a hub.
Support this initiative for earth justice, equality, and a stronger local economy. A successful Free Store project in Whittier means that the concept can be replicated in other cities, too.
Risks and challenges
Free rent is a challenge: Like other free stores, the Long Beach Free Store has struggled with securing a permanent, secure location. Many free stores obtain temporary agreements from building owners and bounce around to different locations several times a year. This activates community spaces and makes use of unused retail and business locations. But, it’s hard to keep rebuilding.
It’s different in Whittier: Although we are a secular project, Make Space: Free Store & Artisan Work Lab is viewed by our hosts at First Christian Church as an extension of their mission for community wholeness. The Whittier Free Store team also has the advantage of serving on the board of The Whole Place at First Christian Church, which administers the use of the church campus by community organizations such as ours. This means that as long as the church remains in its buildings, we can too. This is an unprecedented level of security for rent-free, sweat-equity storefront projects.
Our resources for sustainability: We have already invested what we can out of pocket for paint and carpentry supplies. We’ve given hundreds of hours of sweat equity, and will give hundreds more. The space is unrecognizable compared to when we began! We’re submitting grant proposals to different private foundations to help with seed funding. Nothing is guaranteed, but we’re also talking to municipal leaders about collaborating on national and federal grants for placemaking. We’re tracking our outcomes to show you, and our potential funders, what we’ll accomplish in our first year of operation.
Measurable outcomes for the Make Space: Free Store & Artisan Work Lab project in Year 1 will include:
- Complete upgrades to the Whittier Free Store
- Install barcode software and design inventory/member database
- Enroll and orient 500 Whittier Free Store members
- Enroll and orient 100 Whittier Free Store supporting members
- Recruit and train 10 Free Store volunteer ambassadors
- Post 100 original photos to our profiles and fan pages on social media (Instagram and Facebook)
- Increase Sustainable Whittier e-newsletter subscribers from 800 to 2,000
- Design and maintain organization partner referral materials
- Open the Whittier Free Store (soft open and Grand Opening events)
- Establish and maintain weekly open hours (300 hours in Year 1)
- Process 1,000 Whittier Free Store transactions
- Process free merchandise valued at $10,000
- Divert 1 ton of waste
- Host 20 Trade School Los Angeles workshops
- Host 10 UC Cooperative Extension Master Food Preservers workshops
- Recruit 10 Artisan Work Lab art and business mentors
- Develop and sell proprietary merchandise (one of a kind logo t-shirts, totes, etc., using donated stock)
Whittier’s business environment: We can help Whittier expand beyond its reliance on the for-profit world’s ability to create local economic value. Uptown Whittier is full of flourishing businesses. Whittier has gallery and boutique space, but no skill/job development exists for careers and businesses in art and design. By and large, our local visual and folk arts classes serve hobbyists. Make Space: Free Store & Artisan Work Lab contributes to the local economy growth by providing artisan business incubation. We are turning raw materials (creative people, skill building, and diverted waste) into saleable commodities and viable businesses while reducing costs to the city and building the sharing economy for local self-reliance.
The Whittier Time Bank facilitates skill-sharing and skill-building to promote reciprocity and community self-reliance. The Whittier Time Bank is a project of Catalyst Network of Communities - a 501c3 nonprofit social impact organization helping people to connect, collaborate, and share resources. The Free Store and Artisan Work Lab is housed at The Whole Place at First Christian Church -- a community possibility engine.
The Catalyst Network of Communities is a 501c3 nonprofit social impact organization helping you to connect, collaborate, and share resources. We do this by creating projects that inspire empathy and understanding between people. We are building a community of catalysts that embody the common values for building relationships, establishing partnerships, encouraging contribution, and inspiring growth. "Connect and Affect!"Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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