By MARIA D. JAMES — When the Hyattsville Nurturing Moms group first started the HY-Swap, a community exchange of infant, children’s and maternity clothing, toys and gear, in the fall of 2014, the event was managed by 10 volunteers and served 90 families. Last fall, that number increased to 73 volunteers and 312 families served. The next HY-Swap will be held Saturday, April 21 at the Hyattsville Municipal Building, 4310 Gallatin Street. Doors open at 11 a.m. for Hyattsville families and friends first. Then, the general public is welcome at 1 p.m.
Clothing and toy donations are not accepted on the day of the swap. Only big items such as bouncers, car seats, highchairs, cribs, mattresses are accepted on the morning of from 9:30 to 11 a.m.
Visitors to the HY-Swap will find tangible items, such as clothes preemie to youth sizes, maternity items, books and toys, as well as things not so tangible but equally valuable, like a supportive community.
“I think everyone who shops the Swap would rave about the money we have all saved not having to go out and buy clothes/toys/accessories,” said Mandy Sheffer, Hyattsville resident.
After having her first child, Sheffer was sure they would not have additional kids and as a result gave away all baby-related items. Fast forward to three years later, and Sheffer was pregnant and her family was now operating off one salary.
“I literally was able to get everything I needed from maternity gear to pacifiers, to baby clothing to breastfeeding pillows. And it was all free. And the best part [was] once I was done with it I gave it all to my neighbor who in turn gave it all back to the Swap when she was done with it. Talk about coming full circle.”
Sheffer says the Swap helped alleviate a lot of the financial stress that comes with having a new baby, and it fosters community needed when you are pregnant.
No matter how large the event becomes, organizers are committed to maintaining the community feeling.
“We are really committed to keeping the event community focused and having our volunteer roots, but we are growing so fast, it’s hard to keep up,” said Sara Bendoraitis, a member of the core group of coordinators for the twice-per-year event.
A few changes last year included moving large toys and items outdoors to the parking lot to accommodate the growing number of items they received. Also added was a reception for new parents and families on Friday night that allows new parents to shop early before the Saturday crowds.
“We try to connect one-on-one with the new parents and walk them through things they might need and questions they have so they might not be so overwhelmed,” said Bendoraitis.
The HY-Swap for new parents and families will be held on Friday, April 20, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Hyattsville Municipal Building, Multi-purpose Room, 4310 Gallatin Street. Light refreshments will be served. Reservations are needed by April 16 via Evite.
Organizers hope the event seems effortless to the public, but planning takes a lots of time and dedication. As interest continues to grow and more families are served, organizers say they will need more helping hands to keep the event going.
Currently, coordination of the event includes a core team of about 10 volunteers who act as captains, eight families who serve as drop site locations, and then an army of volunteers who help sort transport all the donations and then set up, staff and break down the event. According to Bendoraitis, they need folks to donate their time, money and space to be able to continue this event.
“We are exploring becoming a nonprofit and other avenues to keep up with the demand, but even with our amazing volunteers, it’s hard to put this event on twice a year,” said Bendoraitis, who candidly shares that 90 percent of the clothing, toys and gear her children have are all swap items or things from other families on the HNMoms listserv.
“This community has given me so much and the HY-Swap in particular that it’s really important to me to be part of the core that puts this event on each season. But it’s also much more than the stuff,” said Bendoraitis. “I’ve gotten advice and guidance from folks when I reached out and needed it, and I know there are people I can count on out there in my community and that’s really important to me and my family.”
HY-Swap is a free event, but cash donations are welcomed. For information or to volunteer, contact email@example.com or visit www.hy-swap.com.