By Sue Tiffin
Published Dec. 21 2017
Jessica Mann was overwhelmed with the generosity of Minden residents – but so was her garage.
The Minden resident had seen so many local people posting on Facebook in need of help finding a clothing item for their kids or something extra for their cupboard but without the resources to purchase something or even leave the house to access it that she felt she needed to help.
“It sucks to have to be in need for something and there’s no way to get it” she said. “Everyone has been there once. Some people struggle with it more than once.”
So she started a Facebook group that sits alongside the local buy and sell groups – “New and Gently Used Items for Free – Minden Ontario” in which people could post any item in great condition to give away. Within a few short months the group had amassed more than 500 members with people sharing furniture bedding bags of clothing and personal hygiene products sometimes joining together offline to help distribute items or deliver them to those without transportation.
“There is no judgement” said Mann. “If anybody has any issues I don’t care if you’re a business owner or you have a full-time job…in our society with what we all make and the cost of items everybody needs help.”
Mann acknowledged other helpful resources in town including the food bank churches and thrift shops but wanted to help do more for people who needed further help even after accessing those services or for people who had missed out on a few days of work due to illness making their paycheques less than they had anticipated.
“It’s sad that there are so many people” she said. “A lot of them I do know personally. I see them push and try their hardest every day. Especially when you have to work through the day because your kids are in school and if you don’t work through the day you’re having to pay for daycare or a babysitter. Rents and mortgages are outrageous. I don’t understand how some people can survive.”
The site has also been used as a place for people to source out one item like a certain size of pyjamas or give away coupons they won’t use or unopened food they bought extra of before realizing their child won’t eat it. Mann has listed local resources including food bank locations YWCA resources and job listings and also hosts giveaways on the site drawing interested member’s names so they might win some unique items as a pick-me-up.
But the quick growth in popularity of the site and Mann’s willingness to house donations so they could be picked up at any hour has led to a big stash of furniture books and kitchen appliances crowding her house. She also realized that the cost of the internet means some people already drowning in monthly bills can’t access the site. With the help of some of her clients (Mann runs a cleaning business) she was able to pull donations together to rent the Minden Lion’s Club hall and host a free giveaway event just before Christmas which occurred on Dec. 19 and 20.
Items not picked up will be donated back into the community.
“There’s probably tons of people out there who could use some extra help” said Mann. “What better way than to have a big event.”
Before the event opened Mann and a crew of volunteers had filled the room with tables organized with toiletries toys household appliances decorations and books and were ready to open the doors to give back to anyone in need.
“It’s just amazing the information that goes out in the group the support people give it’s …it
just touches my heart so much” said Mann. “Just seeing that everyone can reach out and help
even when we all don’t have much to offer. Maybe it’s just a pat on the back to say ‘hey you
can get through this.’ There’s always something someone can do.”
The Free Give Away Event takes place on Dec. 19 from 11 to 4 and Dec. 20 from 9 to 5 at the
Minden Lion’s Hall at 166 Bobcaygeon Road. Additional information can be found in the
Facebook group at New and Gently Used Items for Free – Minden Ontario.