Trash Turns to Treasure at 'Free Store'

Drop off or pick up gently used items Feb. 14 and 28

Faculty, staff and students can find a slew of items at the Duke Free Store. Duke community members can stop by Feb. 14 and 28 inside the Bryan Center. Photos by Bryan Roth.

A black, leather purse. Toner cartridges. Craft supplies.

It's not an island of misfit items - it's the Duke Free Store.

Along with a slew of random objects, faculty, staff and students might also find more practical options at the bimonthly swap-meet style event like binders, folders and writing instruments. You might also find fun, antiquated material to feed your inner artist.

"We had an original word processer machine that also had a floppy disc," said David Clancy, a first-year volunteer with the Duke Free Store. "A student came by, took the floppy disc and said he was going to put it in a frame because in 20 years, he'll be able to tell people what it was."

The Free Store allows Duke community members to donate and/or take any gently used office supplies, books, kitchen supplies or other miscellaneous items. The store is maintained through a partnership with the Students for Sustainable Living group and Duke Recycles. A table of goods can usually be found inside the Bryan Center or just outside the building on The Plaza every other week.

Drop off or pick up goods next at the Free Store on Feb. 14 and 28. The booth is open from noon to 4:30 p.m.

"Any kind of 'freecycle' option is great because there are a lot of people always trying to reduce their waste and simplify things," said Jill Cordell, financial aid director for the School of Nursing, who visited the Free Store in January. "I'd much rather find something through the Free Store than buying it online or at a store."

While Cordell hasn't taken anything from her visits to the store, she's always dropped something off, from binders to notepads and Post-it notes that go unused at her office.

"If I'm not using items, I don't want them to go to waste," she said. "It's an easy way to find them a home."

Participating with the Free Store is easy - everything is free and no donation is necessary to take something. While the store takes nearly all donations, volunteers can't accept anything potentially dangerous, alive or illegal. Drop-offs can be made at the store's table on event days. Any Duke-owned property purchased with Duke funds, like computers and office furniture, can't be donated to the Free Store and should be donated through Procurement's Surplus and Storage Program.

"The Free Store emphasizes the idea that one person's trash is another's treasure," said Kelly Shen, a first-year volunteer with the Free Store. "Something one person plans to throw away can often be put to use and gain another life."

To get a preview of what the Free Store has to offer, Duke community members can "like" the store's Facebook page, which showcases select donations in a "Featured Item of the Day" post before each time the store is set up.