ANDERSON, Ind. — With boxes filled with clothes, books, DVDs and various knickknacks in her kitchen, at first glance it may look like Kelli Cave loves clutter.
“There was one time the house was overrun (with stuff) and my husband walked in and walked right back out,” she said.
But Cave isn’t clinging to the items, which would eventually cause her house to be in total disarray. She’s organizing and giving them to families in need.
Cave is one of seven administrators on the “One Families Junk is Another’s Treasure!” Facebook page, a marketplace, of sorts.
It’s a place where Madison County residents can request and give away household items – all for free.
In fact, if anyone even mentions a dollar amount, there are consequences.
“No sales,” Jodi Allen, an admin, said. “We’ll warn you once but if you do it a second time, we’ll delete you.”
The whole point is to help each other. Members who have items they no longer want post on the group’s Facebook wall or give them to one of the admins to list. People who need specific items can also request them on the page.
The women launched the group in November 2012 after realizing how many struggling families there are in the area. Just a little more than a year later, it has more than 3,500 members.
From necessities to the strange, listings include anything from household needs to stuff meant to entertain. Baby items and clothes are popular giveaways, but Cave said she’s even distributed an Aerosmith book without realizing it was apparently signed by the band.
Just about anything in good condition can be given away.
Stay-at-home mom of four Krystal Pierce said she’s only been part of the group for a month but has already gotten clothes, baby items and books for her kids.
She bought her 3-year-old new clothes for Christmas, but after a growth spurt she no longer had any pants that fit her. After posting her need on the site, a woman said she had a few and ended up giving her two bags full of clothes in great condition. There were so many nice pairs of pants and pajamas that she almost cried.
“As moms you pass down and exchange things back and forth,” Pierce said. “You can have all the money in the world but if someone gives you something you need, it helps so much you just have to pay it forward.”
Pierce is ready to pay it forward. She’s getting ready to post a car seat, shoes, winter clothes and some of her daughter’s clothes.
Giving back helps her get rid of things she doesn’t need around the house, she said, but it’s also a way to keep the site going to help families.
Exchanging items instead of buying new can help conserve resources.
“My motto is 'get your clothes free so you can save money for food and bills,' ” Cave said.
It’s still common for people to ask for food, though. While the admins praise local food banks, sometimes people can only get snack items instead of meals.
“One bag of groceries may seem little to us, but it could be the world to someone else,” Cave said.
The women try to fulfill any need they can because each of them have needed help at some point.
“I’ve personally been blessed by this site,” Allen said.
Besides receiving clothing and other stuff from the group, Allen said in a way the page gave her a job. Through the site, she met Cave and her sister, Jennifer Cox. Now, not only does Allen help run the group, she works at Cox’s daycare, too.
Cox, who is also an admin, monitors the page and lists items, too. Like the other admins, she takes money from her own pocket to help others.
During the holidays, she “adopted” several families and spent about $1,200 on gifts, and last year she spent about $250 on Easter baskets. She’ll even buy baby clothes when she’s out shopping because she knows someone will need them.
Besides the Facebook page, the group’s leaders also organize events and special packages throughout the year, like school supply giveaways. Right now, they’re looking for a venue to hold an Easter egg hunt this spring.
They’ve looked into becoming a nonprofit and want to get a building at some point, but for now they’re focused on helping families with their computers inside their own homes.
“I just always remember,” Cave said, “you have to bless somebody else to be blessed.”
Like Kelly Dickey on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @KellyD_THB, or call 640-4805.