They swapped out a communitywide problem for a crowdsourced solution.
After seeing online complaints about how difficult it can be to unload unwanted clothing in Juneau, a group of women are leading recurring clothing swaps. They’re for folks who aren’t available for secondhand store drop-off times, whose gently used garments don’t meet consignment standards or who would just rather swap.
“I think it was a meme,” organizer Amelia Jenkins said at a Saturday swap that attracted more than 100 people. “People were complaining online about how hard it is to get rid of clothes here.”
Like a lot of local quirks, that challenge is tied to Juneau being a de facto island. There are a limited number of locations that accept secondhand clothes, and those locations have specific hours for drop-offs.
Jenkins said she knew clothing swaps, which let people pick from a pool of clothing in exchange for a person giving their clothing into the pool, are already popular among groups of friends, so she and swap organizer Miranda McCarty decided to enlarge the clothing swap concept to a community-level event.
“We thought why not do it on a larger scale, where you’re not swapping stuff back with the same friends,” Jenkins said.
A Saturday women’s clothing swap — the second swap helmed by Jenkins, McCarty and volunteers Monika Kunat and Rachel Byrd— at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library attracted over 100 people and kept volunteers busy sorting through clothes and keeping tables and racks in order.
“We were expecting more people,” Kunat said. “Anyone who wants to help out next time, we probably need more help.”
The best way to volunteer is to reach out through the Community Clothing Swap Facebook page, volunteers said. More swaps are planned, and there are some ideas to expand the scope beyond women’s clothing.
“We’ve been thinking about doing one for kids,” McCarty said. “Maybe outdoors stuff.”
While the crowd wasn’t unexpected, the near shoulder-shoulder school of swappers that filled the library conference room exceeded expectations, organizers said.
Near the beginning of the swap, the library conference room that hosted the swap was filled with a packed crowd.
Those in attendance said they mostly heard about the event through Facebook, where it was promoted by Byrd.
“I just thought this would be fun,” Paula Hubert said
She said she was primarily motivated to swap by the allure of changing the contents of her closet. Others were more interested in what they could get rid of than what they could acquire.
“I had a lot of clothes to get rid of,” Devon West said.
West said it can be tough to find time to drop off items during the allotted times, and consignment requisites sometimes mean she’s stuck with what she has if she doesn’t want to throw it away.
“Here, I know they’ll take the majority if not all of my stuff,” West said. “This just makes it so much more fun.”
Jenkins said when she saw the quantity of clothes being dropped off Saturday, she was nervous that people would be more interested in off-loading clothing than leaving with new garments. However, as the event neared its second hour, previously crowded tables were looking a lot more picked over.
Clothing leftover from the swap isn’t bound for a landfill.
Jenkins said suitable clothing would be consigned to Alaska Dames under the Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies (AWARE) account, warm clothing would be donated to Juneau’s homeless shelter and soup kitchen Glory Hall and everything else would be donated to any organization that would accept it.
“It’s keeping clothes out of landfills and out of closets where they’re just gathering dust,” Jenkins said.
Consignment and donation times
Salvation Army: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays during winter hours;
St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store: 10-11 a.m.Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Alaskan Dames: accepts freshly washed clothing in excellent condition at its 1900 Crest St. location 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and noon-3 p.m. Sundays.
Tot2Teen: This consignment and resale shop in Mendenhall Mall, accepts drop-offs 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. Sundays.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.