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The spirit of helping: ‘Take whatever you need’

SHARE The spirit of helping: ‘Take whatever you need’
I’m so grateful there are people who are willing to do that. I was able to find six outfits for each of my kids. And I felt so welcome. To hear them say, ‘go ahead and take whatever you need’ was such a blessing. – Kendra Mabey

OREM — Kendra Mabey said she can barely make ends meet with her monthly disability check and it pained her to send her six kids back to school with the bare minimum this year.

"I just didn't have it this year," she said.

Mabey, 38, and her husband were able to supplement their meager supplies of clothing with various used items found at Saturday's community free swap and she said, "it helped us immensely."

"I'm so grateful there are people who are willing to do that," Mabey said. "I was able to find six outfits for each of my kids. And I felt so welcome. To hear them say, 'go ahead and take whatever you need' was such a blessing."

About 450 people visited the Orem City Center Park Rotary Pavilion for the biannual yard sale of sorts on Saturday. The event is organized by Orem resident Sarah Bateman, who has been gathering items and passing them along to people in need for the last nine years.

She advertises the event online, on a blog she keeps at www.communityfreeswap.blogspot.com, as well as the "Community Free S.W.A.P. (Sharing: We All Prosper)" Facebook page.

"I was doing my annual de-cluttering and was driving all my stuff to the thrift store and I realized I was ready to pass it along and wanted to get it to the people who needed it right then," Bateman said. The swap grew larger each year and she said she's been "delighted to see people sharing freely with each other and everybody is happy at the end."

"We have so much and we also have people with great need," Bateman said.

The free exchange of goods includes "anything that can be carried by two people," she said, as anything larger would require more complicated arrangements. She hosts the swap the first Saturday in June and the last Saturday of September every year.

"You see people teary eyed but then grateful for the opportunity and next time they bring things," Bateman said. "That's where the magic happens. It's the stories of these individual lives and how those stories are all interconnected at this one moment of time at the community free swap. It's not just people sharing things they have loved and used."

Everything from a leather armchair to ceramic collectibles and hundreds of items of clothing were spread across tables. Organizers aimed to not only help people simplify and pare down their own lives, but also help others set up homes and benefit people in need.

"This is where we see, together, what a truly abundant life we share," Bateman said. She hopes other communities will follow her lead and that more stuff will be shared between lives.

"If every city across the nation organized just one free swap each year, the benefits would increase exponentially, turning hundreds served into millions," she said.

In addition to the clothing, Mabey was able to gather a couple fishing poles and camping equipment for her kids, as well as a pair of skis that she thinks they might be able to put to use later this year in their backyard, which lies in the foothills of Payson.

"There's no way I would have been able to afford any of this," she said. "People are so generous. I can't thank them enough. It was an incredible experience."

Email: wleonard@deseretnews.com, Twitter: wendyleonards