HY-Swap adds recycling program, looks to the future
By SHOURJYA MOOKERJEE — Spring has come! A new season means a new wardrobe, which can be pricey. But a group of neighborhood parents are — again — here to help.
On April 6, community members and new parents will gather in Hyattsville’s municipal building for the Spring 2019 HY-Swap, where locals can “shop” a free exchange of infant, children’s and maternity clothing, gear and toys.
The biannual swap, which is organized by an all-volunteer operation, will take place again in October. The initial idea for the program evolved from a summer picnic exchange created by new parents in a local listserv, said Sara Bendoraitis, the communications chair for HY-Swap. Nowadays, each event draws close to 500 families.
“Parents in the area almost always have stuff lying around that can be swapped and forwarded,” said Bendoraitis, who will be participating in her eighth swap on Saturday. “This initiative helps struggling families, of course, but the silver lining is that we can also cut down on potential waste. It’s for the community, but also from the community.”
Residents will be able to cut down on waste in a new way this year. Local mom (and HL&T columnist) Juliette Fradin has recently embarked on a “Zero Waste” journey and will be collecting items to be recycled.
“Hy-Swap is a formidable opportunity to shop for used clothes and reuse baby and kids’ items, Fradin said. “Building on that I thought I could offer to busy families a station to recycle common things like natural corks, batteries, old cellphones, Brita filters, and plastic bags. We sometimes put things in the recycling bins that are not recyclable, so it is a way to bring awareness and make sure at least a few items don’t end up in a landfill.”
“It is also a great a way to celebrate Earth month,” she added.
Currently, the event is hosted in the city’s municipal building on 4310 Gallatin St., but it was not the original location for the program. The first ever HY-Swap was held in the local masonic lodge down the street; since then, the founding members have partnered with the city and put a proposal forward to garner funding from councilmembers.
The lengthy process for organizing each HY-Swap begins well in advance of the actual event, Bendoraitis said. Typically lasting about six weeks, the first four weeks are allotted for collection, and the two weeks leading up to the event are for sorting through the donations.
“We maintain a pretty loose standard but in general, our unofficial motto is ‘if it’s something you would put your child in, then we take it,’” she said. “Oftentimes, donations can have all sorts of purposes, from art smocks to playtime clothes.”
While Bendoraitis expressed optimism about the program’s direction thus far, she maintained bigger aspirations for the future. The eventual goal, she said, would be to grow HY-Swap into a nonprofit, for both practical reasons and the allure of increased commercial appeal.
“We’ve had businesses in the area help us out before,” she said. “Vigilante Coffee has donated coffee to our volunteers in the past and Penske, the moving truck company, has very kindly given us their employee discount, but that model isn’t sustainable.”
Becoming a nonprofit would give HY-Swap the freedom to start applying for grants and other forms of funding, Bendoraitis said. In addition, community members who donate would be allowed to file for federal tax exemptions, as dictated by Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.
“We usually buy moving boxes from Home Depot, for example,” Bendoraitis said. “In the event that we do become a public charity, HY-Swap would be able to start accepting them as donations.”
Above all, Bendoraitis stated that any benefit or additional resource that came from becoming a nonprofit would be put toward making the program more advantageous for the community.
“It’s heartwarming to see a family come in with nothing and leave with an entire nursery,” Bendoraitis said. “We will always stay true to the idea that you don’t have to give to take, but the hope is that one day it’ll be paid forward.”