Ultimate Thrift Store: Everything Is Free

It may be the ultimate thrift shop. Everything is free. Or at least, no money changes hands.

"When the economy took a turn for the worse, people started thinking outside the box," said Desiree Kannel, an organizer for the Catalyst Network of Communities. "They said, 'hey, how can we share resources?'"

The Free Store is really based on free exchange. If you bring something in, you can take something out. You go through your closet, then you can go through theirs.

"This is great," shouted Maria D'Ambrosio, clutching a yellow, print skirt. "I love anything from the 1960s."

In addition to enjoying its stock of merchandise, D'Ambrosio volunteers at the store.

The concept is part of the community organization called Catalyst. There's really more to the concept than just trading stuff. There are also volunteer and networking opportunities. And you can exchange more than goods. You can also trade out services.

"Say you had 50 people and they could all do something different," explains Mark Pike, another volunteer. "Say, I wanted my car fixed and I knew someone in the time exchange who could fix my car. So I go to him and I exchange a couple of time dollars for whatever he wants for his services to put the piece in the car."

Not only is Mark Pike banking time and services. He's also making contacts that could help him find a job.

And Mark's story is not unique. The concept is catching on.

The Free Store, located at 430 E. 1st St. in Long Beach, is only open four days a week. With more volunteers, it could be open more often. Meanwhile, it doubles as a yoga studio and community center. Organizers say they like it that way. It's a simple concept that can help people solve complicated problems.

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