By Hailey Wood, Staff Writer
Born out of an event from the Office of Sustainability at USM, the Free Store offers a space for students and staff to donate items they no longer need to be repurposed by others in the community.
The Free Store stemmed from a project by the sustainability office called “Mindful Move-Out,” said Oona Molyneaux, a student at USM and manager of the Free Store.
“Mindful Move-out” is where members of the sustainability office “promote people in the dorms to donate things they aren’t taking home or don’t use anymore to the Free Store,” Molyneaux said. The following school year any incoming students can reuse those items and save money, she added.
“We try and promote the sustainable idea of reduce, reause, recycle,” said Molyneaux. “Instead of buying new things you can just get the items for free from the Free Store.”
The Free Store was created back in 2012 where it once resided on the ground floor of Anderson Hall. “The store was primarily stocked by the annual yard sale at the beginning of the semester and Mindful Move Out at the end of each semester. Items diverted to the USM Free Store save the university approximately $2,000 in waste costs,” said Chelsea Malacara, the Sustainability Education and Outreach Coordinator.
In the summer of 2018, Malacara and the Office of Sustainability had to find a new location to hold the Free Store in because the Anderson space was being repurposed. “Our hope was that the new space would serve students better in that it would have greater visibility, be easy to find, and have regular hours,” said Malacara. They found this area in Lower Brooks.
Before the school year started, Malacara said, they moved in and stocked the shelves in their new location with items left over from the Free Yard Sale during move-in weekend. “Within weeks, much of the inventory was gone which speaks to the importance that this space serves for our student community,” she said.
Malacara said that the Free Store serves as a pilot location for a Gorham campus food pantry as well.
“Each week the store is busier than the last and filled with students looking for everything from clothing to kitchen supplies and even holiday decorations,” she said.
It is the Office of Sustainability’s goal to see the store grow as a “USM community staple where students can positively impact the environment,” Malacara said.
During the spring semester, the Free Store will be open on Mondays from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. During those hours, students and staff can drop off donations as well as thrift for items they could use.