During the pandemic, numerous giving efforts have expanded in the community from blessing boxes to hot meals and food pantries. Adding to that list now is the Buy Nothing Mt. Blue Area Facebook group, a localized, gift-economy effort that is part of the international Buy Nothing Project.

“Buy Nothing groups are supposed to be very local, so you can literally ‘give where you live,'” co-founder of the Mt. Blue group Denisa Cundick wrote in an email. “Before we started Buy Nothing Mt. Blue Area, the closest group to me in Farmington was Auburn or Augusta. That is too far to travel to pick up a gift and those groups had their own boundaries that didn’t include our area.”

The concept of Buy Nothing is simple: people within the Franklin County area post a need to the group or an item or service they are giving away for free. The idea is to encourage people to get to know their neighbors, help each other where they can and promote a unique way of recycling that challenges our consumer habits.

Posts have ranged from free Reiki lessons to household items, clothing, craft materials and plants.

“So far I have given cooking tools that I no longer needed, books from my collection, and craft supplies,” co-founder Marjorie Cormier said in an email. “I am looking through all my “stuff” and trying to see if someone else would be able to use things that I would send to the landfill. I like recycling.”

A recent item that would normally find its way to the dump, dried-up Christmas trees, found a home at Jillian Huddleston’s Farm 51 where her four goats happily munched away on the needles. Huddleston had initially posted her request in the Farmington Rants, Raves and Reviews Facebook page and someone referred her to the Buy Nothing group.

This past week, Huddleston has been busy driving out to neighbors’ homes to collect scrap lumber and materials for building climbing obstacles for her goats.

Farmington resident Jillian Huddleston has been acquiring scrap lumber and recycled materials to build climbing obstacles for her goats, Mable, Matilda, Mary Lou and Myrtle, by posting in the Mt. Blue Buy Nothing Facebook group. Jillian Huddleston photo

“Also, someone commented that there is a scrap lumber pile at the Farmington dump that I didn’t know about,” Huddleston wrote on Facebook messenger. “I’m not sure how I have been going to the same dump for 20 years and never noticed it, but for the first time since they closed the share shack I’m actually excited to go to the dump!”

The group requires administrative permission to join, granted by either Cundick or Cormier to ensure that members are within a feasible proximity to each other.

“Sometimes we get requests from people who don’t live in Mt. Blue area, so we have to turn them down. If there is a group in their area, we direct them to it, if there isn’t, we invite them to start their own,” Cundick said. “After all, it was an invitation by a friend that prompted me to start Buy Nothing Mt. Blue Area.” 

Cundick had known about the Buy Nothing Project for several years she said, but did not have the time until very recently to start a local group.

“After Christmas I was looking for pickle jars to store staple foods in, so I made a post on my personal page hoping some of my local friends had some to give away,” Cundick said. “An out-of-state friend on Facebook suggested I start a Buy Nothing Group and connected me with the volunteers who are in charge of growing the project. I jumped right in and Marjorie offered to co-admin the group with me.”

To establish a Buy Nothing group, the project requires administrators to go through several hours of online training and to connect with other volunteers to promote the development of more groups.

Once Cundick and Cormier completed their training, they launched the Mt. Blue group Jan. 4 and began accepting members based on their geographic locations.

“I am very pleased with how things are going,” Cundick said. “We have several posts everyday, and it seems the gifts almost always find a new home and are greatly appreciated. Everyone has been very supportive and kind,” Cundick said. “I love that Buy Nothing has given us an opportunity to connect with our neighbors (especially now that we don’t see each other much due to COVID-19 restrictions), and to be able to fulfill some needs and wants by sharing what we have.”

Once COVID-19 restrictions ease, Cundick and Cormier hope to see the gift economy expand beyond the Facebook platform perhaps through lawn-sale style free swaps or small gatherings where people offer an exchange of their skills.

“There are many things about Buy Nothing that I like,” Cormier said. “The feeling of community, helping others and feeling that they would help me, the gratitude that is shown for getting a gift. Everyone in our group has been very respectful and willing to help.”

To request to become a member of the Buy Nothing Mt. Blue Area Facebook group, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/424278695359817. The group is open to residents of Weld, Wilton, Industry, Chesterville, Temple, Farmington, Starks, New Vineyard, New Sharon and Vienna.


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