BY JULIETTE FRADIN 

The thing about children is they grow. One major side effect of this is that they go through clothes quickly: On average, babies change their entire wardrobes every three months. And older kids can be rough on their wardrobe, accumulating rips and stains until their clothes become unrecognizable. The fact that children of all ages are in constant need of new clothes leaves parents with piles of old clothes to deal with.

“My basement that is overflowing with three years of stuff is pretty grateful,” commented Jamie McGonnigal, who donated to the HY-Swap on May 1.
Photo credit: Juliette Fradin Photography

Hyattsville’s parents are more fortunate than some, though, as they can donate to and shop at the HY-Swap for free. The HY-Swap is a community event for exchanging anything kid-related, from clothes to toys to maternity gear. 

The swap had been on hold for two years due to COVID-19 but came back this year on May 1, stronger than ever. Sara Bendoraitis, the treasurer of the HY-Swap’s 501c3 nonprofit organization, told us that some 75 volunteers helped sort the typical 1,700 cubic square feet of goods donated for the swap. 

Unlike in previous years, this year’s HY-Swap was held outdoors, at Driskell Community Park, rather than indoors at the Hyattsville Municipal Building, due to COVID-19 restrictions. “We only had a two-hour window for folks to donate, get it all sorted and set it all up before folks came to shop,” Bendoraitis explained. Thanks to the hard work of all the volunteers, they managed to process all donations, set up everything, and open on time at noon. There were no sorting parties and no reception for new parents, as in years past, but the spirit of the HY-Swap remained. 

Photo credit: Juliette Fradin Photography

When the rain started to fall halfway through the event, local mom Kate Kowalski put a call out for tents on the HOPE (Hyattsville Organization for a Positive Environment) listserv, and 10 minutes later, organizers had five tents in hand. The tents saved a lot of donations from being ruined and allowed shoppers to keep perusing. Despite the soggy weather, about half of the people who signed up showed up (around 200 of about 417 sign-ups, according to Bendoraitis).

The HY-Swap welcomes everyone, whether or not they’ve donated items. “It’s a phenomenal community event that promotes the general community philosophy that sharing is better than selling,” explained HY-Swap shopper Katie Kaczmarksi. “All these clothes and gear could be sold for a few bucks here and there, but it feels so much better to freely give and freely take.”  

One of the big benefits of a swap is the new connections you can forge. Resident Erin Schneider agreed, saying, “Not only have we been able to benefit from free clothing and gear items for our kids, we’ve met a lot of neighbors and made friends along the way”.

After the two-year hiatus, experienced and new volunteers alike were happy to socialize with friends, meet new neighbors and exchange tips about life with kids. “We’ve also been able to expose our 8-year-old daughter, Samantha, to the joy of volunteering in her community,” added Schneider. 

Hyattsville offers many opportunities to meet and mingle. This one is special, as it keeps things out of landfills and helps the circular economy where everything is shared and reused for as long as possible. The Environmental Protection Agency reported that, in 2018, approximately 87% of used clothing and footwear in the U.S. made its way to landfills and incinerators. “[The HY-Swap] has helped us reduce our reliance on fast fashion, recycle our clothes, and save us money,” resident Mairin Batten said, perfectly summing up the swap. “There were so many helpful hands, laughs and grateful neighbors. I’m so glad HY-Swap is back!” 

Photo credit: Juliette Fradin Photography

The core Hy-Swap team (Sara Bendoraitis, Heather McAndrews, Alyssa Goodman, Geneive Noyce, Catherine Bennett Nwosu and Katie Bergfeld) is already planning for the fall swap, which will return to the dry and warm municipal building, if all goes well.