Graphic by John Oliver Santiago.
A common saying goes, “Nothing in life is free.” While many people believe this to be true, there have been others who have worked to prove this saying wrong. There are people who dedicate a good amount of time organizing events that provide free things to their community.
The idea of having things given away for free has been around for a very long time but, perhaps in our capitalist society, the giving side hasn’t been as enthusiastic as the receiving side. Usually, we believe, there is some ulterior motive for wanting to give something away.
Defying these popular perceptions, is Long Beach’s very own free store.
Free stores have been around for a few decades, but the history of giving goes far back across culture and time. In 1649, a group of peasants, The English Diggers, came together after the execution of King Charles I. They believed that some of the land should belong to those at the lowest class level. When the peasants began giving out produce grown on those fields, the popularity of the English Diggers grew and, within a year, they doubled in numbers. Farmers and the Commonwealth government grew concerned by these actions so they forced the group to stop by 1650.
In our own time, in San Francisco, a group of people modeled themselves after The English Diggers. The Diggers, as they called themselves, tried to build a free city by giving out food at local parks and opening free stores.
Now that Long Beach has its own free store, some locals have been showing quite an interest in the shop. The concept of a free store is not only about people getting free stuff, but about bringing the community together. Sharon Moiseiff, founder of the LB Free Store, has been interested in having community clothing swaps. She helped organize the 710 Swap which took place once a month and brought out many people to exchange whatever they could with others. “People are a bit skeptical about receiving things for free, mainly because they don’t know why we’re doing it. The free store helps explain everything,” says Moiseiff. The LB Free Store has warmed a lot more people to the idea of giving as well as taking. The store seems to be in a state of good balance, shattering expectations that people would only come to take. The store location is quickly becoming too small for all of the items being donated.
There are many benefits of the free store that might not be apparent. Many people in the community, especially one as economically diverse as ours, frequent the store and might even be fortunate enough to see someone pick up an item they have donated. “I try to keep political and religious arguments out of the store, not that I don’t have my own beliefs, but the store is about unifying everyone,” explains Moiseiff. The store breaks down many social barriers, welcoming anyone who likes giving not just their old belongings but also their time and effort in keeping the store running. The all-volunteer staff is a testament to the energy our community has invested into the store. The 100% volunteer staff is a testament to the way our community has come to support the store. “The free sore is not just about people donating their items, but also about donating their time which is just as important,” said Moiseiff.
Should anyone be interested in checking out the Free Store, please visit www.lbfreestore.com. Hopefully other free stores begin popping up all over the place. There are free stores active in Riverside, Fullerton, Anaheim, Santa Barbara and a few more cities around southern California. Where will the next free store pop up?