Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
4,700 hangers. 100 lamps. 80 trash cans. 60 fans. These are just some of the items housed in Worthmore, Swarthmore’s new free store that opened this semester.
After most students moved out last spring, some twenty Worthmore volunteers stayed behind for two weeks, sorting through everything left behind in the dorm lounges. Items ranged from golf clubs and gym weights to dish soap and bug spray, with everything in between (think wood varnish, desk organizers, phone chargers…). Most of these items were brought to Worthmore’s new space in Willets Basement, but textbooks were taken to Underhill, while other books were taken to McCabe.
While one principal goal of creating Worthmore was to manage the vast quantities of stuff that students leave behind after move-out, the free store also plans to remain open during the academic year. During the year, students can both give items they brought unnecessarily and take items they didn’t bring, but end up needing, like dorm decorations or cooking supplies.
Worthmore positions itself as an alternative to the conventional way in which we, as a society, buy things as we need and throw them out when we no longer do. Instead, the founders of the free store envision Swarthmore students using it as a way to share resources while spending less money and generating less waste (win-win!).
Ideally, Worthmore would not have to be staffed at all, and students would be able to come and go from the store with their OneCards. However, an earlier experience this summer proved that, at least for the time being, that is not realistic. When early returners living in Willets returned to campus, they were automatically given OneCard access to the Willets free store space and took items Worthmore exists to give them, but left a big mess in the process. Until Swatties become accustomed to using the free store, Worthmore will have limited open hours during the school year.
During the academic year, the store will look different than it did during the summer. The selection of large items will be smaller, so the trailer that housed the extra bulky items will close, but a new space will open elsewhere on campus to give away clothes, shoes and winter wear.
During the year, the store will likely have a smaller selection of items and more of an equilibrium between donations and “purchases”. The winter store will almost certainly not find the 40-person lines at opening that the summer store found, but the coordinators hope it will still be used heavily in the winter months.
The Willets Basement space will likely be staffed for three or four hours each week, while the free books in McCabe and Underhill will be available whenever the libraries are open. Open hours for Fall 2017 will soon be announced on the free store’s Facebook page: facebook.com/WorthmoreSwat
Worthmore will be open 7:30pm -8:30pm on Tuesday September 5 (in Willets for most things and the trailer for lamps, fans and trash cans). We will begin accepting donations when regular hours will begin next week or the week after.
Planning for Worthmore began in fall 2016 with the work of Adina Spertus-Melhus and Hazlett Henderson, both class of 2017. The initiative is now being coordinated by Susanna McGrew and Elyse O’Bannon, both of 2020. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com if you want to get involved with the campus free stores!
Featured Photo courtesy of Susanna McGrew ’20.