THEY say one person’s trash is another person’s treasure and one Ennis woman has certainly proved that. Just over one year ago, Tina Whelan set up the Clare Free to a Good Home Facebook page, along with some other like minded people. Since then, the page has gone from strenght to strenght, with 3,500 members.
The page allows people to get rid of their unwanted goods, with everything from wedding dresses to suites of furniture appearing on the site. Those behind the site also got more than they bargained for, with firm friendships developing that have resulted in charity fundraisers and helping others in the community.
Tina explained, “The theory behind the page is, if you have something free to give away, you can put it up on the page and somebody will take it.
“It’s recycling, you arrange with the person giving it away, the giver we call them, where to meet to give it away. Everything is free and everything is being put to a good use. The rules are basic enough, you can only take one thing a day off the page.”
The idea for a Clare page came about when Tina heard about a similar initiative in Limerick. To date, more than 6,000 items have been given away in Clare alone. “That’s just the stuff we have pictures for, there could be lots more. I am absolutely stunned at how the page has grown and everyday we are shocked with the stuff that comes in.
“It’s just exploded, we went from 20 members to nearly 3,500. You would be surprised what shows up on the page.
“There is nothing we won’t put up, you just don’t know what somebody wants or needs. There are things up there and you’d think nobody would want that, and then lots of comments come in on the page,” said Tina.
As well as the items to be given away, the Facebook page also features messages of gratitude from some of the many recipients including many happy children playing with their new toys.
The page has grown into something bigger than just getting rid of unwanted items.
“The feedback from the page over the year is that people have made friends from meeting up and discovering neighbours that they never knew they had before. What came out of that is we figured that there was a lot of people out there that wanted to help but they just didn’t have an outlet for it.
“A guy approached us last year and he told us his friend was in hospital and he wanted to paint his flat for him as surprise.
“He came on the page and said he was looking for some paint and any colour would do. The next thing strangers from the page literally arrived at the flat and they had a couch, a tv, new presses, frames for photos. They painted the place. These were all strangers who just came together and wanted to help.
“We were approached by another family who had an uncle and he had an accident and they did up his house from the page. These are all strangers becoming friends,” she added.
Twelve children with special needs have been given iPads after old mobile phones were collected via the site and money has been raised for a variety of charities.
Those on the site have even began meeting up socially. A Clare Free Fitness and Weight Loss Club has been set up, with members meeting on Tuesdays for fitness sessions.
Also proving popular is the baking and meal planner page, with members passing on details of particular bargains in stores and recipes to help feed a family for less. A stop-smoking group, a gardening group and a book club have also been formed amongst others.
Tina believes the recession has been a major factor in making the site so popular.
“Absolutely that has been a factor, not just in getting items but also people want to be able to help others and this is an outlet for them. People are getting out of the house to collect or give away an item, they are meeting up and having a chat and a laught.
“We get feedback every day thanking us, but we’re just the admin for this, it’s the people of Clare who are so generous and so giving that are behind the success,” she said.