This past weekend, the papered-over windows of the old Sears franchise store glowed onto this little collection of boxes, bearing the sign "FREE STUFF". It's not so unusual to see larger items out on a home's sidewalk being offered to whoever will take it away - things that really aren't in any condition for a charity shop to try to sell. But lately, I've seen several of these displays of clothing and books and shoes and toys, left out where no one will monitor anyone's rummaging through (allowing for some dignity?), but away from commercial complaints as well. Perhaps it's an effort to get such items right into the hands of someone in real need, so they don't even have to pay pennies to a benevolent fundraiser, because resources are so slim.
I didn't get to catch up with last week's newspaper until today. It turns out that the light glowing inside was because the space is being used to sort and wrap donated new gifts for needy children in the area. As the article says:
The children have been confidentially referred to the program by teachers, service agencies and other agencies. The children fill out red gift tags that include their first name, age, needed clothing, and their big wish from Santa.
Tags are hung on Christmas trees located in businesses around town. Community members are encouraged to pick tags off the trees, purchase the items listed and bring the unwrapped gifts to the old Sears building for wrapping and distribution.
The question of why there are homeless and needy people in America has come up in another blog recently, and the problem is certainly complex. But on a local level, people try to do what they can, with what they have, where they are. We have always been a nation rich with volunteers. We are free to assemble, free to give, free stuff.