Office, Household Items Right Price at ‘Free Store’

Duke Free Store accepts, gives away assortment of goods

This tiny diorama was among the dozens of items available at the Feb. 10 Duke Free Store. The next event takes place Feb. 24 inside the Bryan Center, where Duke community members can drop off or pick up items at their leisure. Just look for the Free Stor

In the process of downsizing clutter at home, Mary Jo Clancy recently piled a backgammon set, books, Frisbees, flower vases and more into a box into the trunk of her car.

But instead of throwing them out or taking them to a local thrift store, she dropped off her collection of "trash" at the Duke Free Store, hoping it would become someone else's treasure. The "store," which is a biweekly table set up inside the Bryan Center, is a home for the misfit goods, office supplies and other knickknacks students and employees don't want to keep. By donating them to the Free Store, Duke community members can allow any passerby to pick up their former item for free.

"I donate to the Free Store because I believe strongly in the 're-use' principle to keep the volume of landfills down," said Clancy, a staff specialist at Duke Divinity School's Center for Reconciliation. "When I absolutely have to dispose of items at the landfill, it breaks my heart to see how many perfectly usable items are being thrown away every day.  I try always to live by the 'do what you can, with what you have, where you are' rule."

All students, faculty and staff can donate or take from the Free Store, which is open from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every other Monday. The next setup will be Feb. 24 outside the University Store in the Bryan Center. The store is maintained through a partnership with the Students for Sustainable Living group and Duke Recycles.

At the last store event on Feb. 10, a variety of freebies was dropped off, including a full-size suitcase full of iced tea mix, a 2013 calendar, books and wrapping paper. Other items available that day included VHS tapes and a poster with famous quotes about baseball.

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.

"Stopping by, as well as donating items to the Free Store, is so important in order to keep waste out of the landfill and truly realize the immense human impact on the environment," said Kelly Shen, a volunteer at the store and member of Students for a Sustainable Living. "It's a win-win for all those involved - people can get free stuff, rid their rooms and offices of clutter and minimize their environmental impact."

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 "Featured Item of the Day" posts.