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Swap Don’t Shop

One local mom’s mission to make the holidays brighter
Swap Don’t Shop takes place Dec. 12 at Willamalane Center
Swap Don’t Shop takes place Dec. 12 at Willamalane Center

When the holidays roll around, families can feel the financial pinch as folks scramble to buy presents while still making ends meet. Local Kayla Powell saw a way to make holiday “shopping” fun again — and the annual “Swap Don’t Shop” began. 

“It started in 2012,” says Powell, a wife and mom to three children. “My son was born in May with health problems, and so he and I would be up all hours of the night together. So I had lots of time to think and, as school was fast approaching, I started to stress about back-to-school shopping for my 6- and 7-year-olds.” 

She continues: “I thought, I can’t be the only parent stressing. How awesome would it be if other families came together to swap their kids’ clothes and shoes, getting new-to-them items and less to worry about purchasing at the store?”

Twenty-seven people attended Powell’s first swap, held in her front yard.  

But this year’s Dec. 12 event will take place in a basketball court at the Willamalane Center in Springfield. For the first time, the center is charging Powell rent for the event, which will come out of her pocket. 

“I would love to find a community partner that would be willing to help host,” Powell says. “I run into dead ends sometimes with collecting donations because I’m not an actual nonprofit group. I’m just a mom and wife who loves to help others.” 

The Swap Don’t Shop is a unique idea, Powell explains. “I’ve never been to an event like this, nor heard of one,” she says, adding, “anyone who’s anyone can come and participate. Bring out your gently used items [no holes, stains, tears or missing pieces], bring a lot, bring a little to swap. I just want to make sure everyone is blessed.”

In 2014, according to Powell, more than 150 families participated in Swap Don’t Shop. 

But how do “swappers” determine if other families will appreciate the treasures they’re bringing in? 

“I don’t count how many items you bring or their value,” Powell says. “I explain it to my kids — it’s like a no-money yard sale. Items can be new or old, as long as they are in gently used condition.”

Once everyone arrives, she says, their items are laid out and families can choose what they like. 

“People will help people they’ve never met before find things they are looking for,” Powell says. “I mean, how awesome is that?”

Find this year’s Swap Don’t Shop 2 to 4 pm Saturday, Dec. 12, with set-up at 1:15 pm on the basketball courts at the Willamalane Center, 250 S. 32nd Street in Springfield. Find more details about the event on the group’s Facebook page (search: Swap Don’t Shop). Admission is free.