My Great Idea: Charity Swap

When I was fifteen and living on the North Shore of Hawaii, I realized that I had a spending problem--the majority of my hard-earned paycheck went to new clothes. Even as a teenager, I recognized that this was becoming a bad habit. Making the decision to change was easier said than done, since I loved getting new clothes and being able to change my style every day. I didn't know how I would ever be able to sacrifice the excitement of shopping.

One day a friend of mine came over and began combing through my closet for style ideas. To my surprise, her favorite pieces were the ones that I never wore. An idea came to me--we should swap! That week I told all the girls in our neighborhood about the big clothing swap that I would host that weekend.

Saturday was the big swap, and it was a success. All of the teenage girls from the neighborhood came over with bags of clothes they rarely wore. In my room, we dumped all the bags into the center and then took turns picking out things we wanted. We tried to make sure that everyone left with equal amounts. At the end of the day, anything unwanted was put into bags and taken to the local second-hand store. It was even better than going shopping--I got new clothes, I made more space in my closet, I helped out a few friends, and I didn't spend a penny!

As I got older and was looking for a way to wrap up my Personal Progress, I decided to use my swap as a way to raise money for charity. I asked more than just my friends to come--I invited everyone in our neighborhood and our ward and told them to bring anything and everything they didn't use or wanted to get rid of. I would still make all the items free, but on each table I would set a jar for donations. On the day of the swap, I asked everyone to make a donation to the jar for whatever they thought the item was worth--anywhere from a dime to five dollars, depending on the taker. At the end of the day, we collected all of the donations and gave them to a local charity. It was an even bigger hit than my little clothes swap, and it also meant that we could make a difference.

Years later, when my husband and I moved away from Hawaii, we brought the idea to our new neighborhood in Georgia. Now, each summer, every family on the block sets up a table in front of their house and fills it with anything the family no longer uses, but is in good shape. Everyone then walks around the neighborhood and takes the things that he or she wants.

The neighborhood swap has created friendships, fun, and a spirit of giving for everyone involved. It's brought the neighborhood together, and we've all (literally) gained a lot from each other.

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