By JOSH MOUND
TACIE HANES WAITED AT HOME FORa grandmother from Warren to pick up a box of toys. Her son had outgrown these toys, and Hanes didn't want them cluttering her house or languishing in a landfill.
Hanes is the co-founder of Youngstown's branch of the Freecycle Network, an organization which allows individuals to give away unwanted items or to claim needed ones. It is like a cyberspace garage sale where everything is free.
Along with co-founder Kim Gallagher, Hanes has been moderating the Youngstown group since it formed in May. Yet, this is her first opportunity to take part in the action.
"You are doing something for the environment and you are doing something for the person who receives the item," she said. "Even if you get nothing [in return], you are getting closet space."
The nexus of freecycling is freecycle.org. The organization was started in 2003 by nonprofit organization RISE to promote waste reduction in Tucson, Ariz. Since its inception, groups have been formed across the country and across the world. The organization's Web site is divided into regions, states and cities, making it easy for potential free cyclers to find local groups.
"I just think it's such a wonderful idea," Virgil Fritz said. "When I first heard about it, I was just floored."
Fritz belongs to several Ohio freecycle groups, including the Youngstown and Cleveland chapters.
"I'm a packrat," he said. "I had lots of junk I wanted to get rid of, and I didn't want it to go to a landfill."
Fritz said it has always pained him to see useful things thrown away. Since he discovered freecycle.org, Fritz has removed items from curbs and trash bins, loaded them into his truck, and freecycled them. While he didn't need the items, he knew someone who did was just a click away.
"I know there're people out there that need things that don't have a lot of money," he said.
With 226 members, the Youngstown chapter keeps growing, providing an outlet both for frustrated residents cleaning out garages and basements and for those in need of a particular item, but who are unwilling or unable to purchase one.
A trimmer, a fish tank, tires, a lawn mower, a ping-pong table and a pool ladder have all been offered on the site. Freecycling is ideal for large items that the "seller" is unable to move alone. Transfer of the item may take place at the house of the seller, the house of the "buyer" or another location. While freecycling serves a practical purpose, the exchange itself builds community, according to Jen Riefler.
"It brings people together," she said. "You have something to give somebody and there's somebody who needs it."
This interaction separates the Freecycle Network from other nonprofit organizations. However, Hanes does not want the group to compete with local charities. She believes Youngstown's freecycle group can cooperate with and assist these organizations.
"Freecycling could be an extremely valuable resource for local charities," she said. "I would like to engineer that."
Accordingly, Hanes plans to contact local charities and encourages freecyclers to give charities the first opportunity to claim.
The grandmother arrived at Hanes' house and found the toys sitting on the front porch. As the woman loaded the box of toys into her car, Hanes asked her if she had received a few other items she had claimed.
"Did you get the lawn mower and the [child's] jeep?"
The grandmother said she had.
"My first successful freecycle," Hanes said.