Old furniture, used clothing, unwanted toys—or maybe just a piece of cake.
When members of a local Facebook group have an item they don’t need anymore, instead of throwing it out, they offer it to their neighbors.
Through the page, Beverly Free Box, neighbors can claim those items on a first come, first serve basis, by responding on Facebook, then visiting the owner’s home to pick up the item.
Maureen Schleyer moderates the group with her friend who goes by Frau Rau, who founded the club two years ago.
“I feel like we work very well together,” Schleyer said. “A lot of neat stuff has come. There’s some big-ticket stuff and some really cool stuff. And it’s nice to know your neighbors like that.”
As of press time, Beverly Free Box had about 2,500 members. Ten rules are posted at the top of the page, and No. 1 is clear—every item must be free.
Those offering items make a post that must include the intersection of the pick-up address, and those wishing to obtain the item comment on the post—the first commenter wins.
Arrangements to pick up the item may be made through private messaging.
Members are required to be from the Beverly/Morgan Park neighborhood—Schleyer noted that Mt. Greenwood has a similar group—and they might be asked to answer questions to join. Rule No. 10 reads, “Bad apples will be booted.”
Recent items ranged from baby wipes to children’s clothing to food items such as graham crackers and cereal.
When a power outage occurred locally, a screened-in porch was offered as a place for people to charge their electronic devices.
“It’s helping out each other,” Schleyer said. “It’s really nice because most people are within the boundaries of Beverly/Morgan Park. You just feel more connected.”
Schleyer said she had an extra dryer in her garage, and she offered it up when a fire destroyed a neighbor’s home. She also provided an extra set of screws to fix a child’s broken glasses.
Every time she has leftover birthday cake, she offers folks a piece.
One recent post offered wild garlic—if the person wanted to come dig it up.
“We have tools sometimes, or leftover dirt,” Schleyer said. “We do a lot of flowers.”
Rau created the group after being part of a similar one while living in the Irving Park neighborhood on the North Side. She said about 3,000 items are “re-homed” every month.
The group is different than other neighborhood pages because it only focuses on free items available. Rule No. 7 explains that no posts may be made about advertising, events or referrals.
Members can also leave an item outside near their trash and notify the group that it’s available. Almost anything can be offered, Rau said, as she wants to keep garbage out of landfills.
She admitted she maintains “very precise” rules to keep the group running smoothly.
“We want this to be as fair and equal as possible,” Rau said.
Schleyer said the rise of free boxes is a “a nice movement, because your junk is someone else’s [treasure].”
She has been on the receiving end as well.
She now owns a neighbor’s green casserole dish that is shaped like a duck, an item she said she would have glossed over at a big-box store.
It’s so neat, she said, she won’t even use it.
“I want to be placed in my coffin with it, holding it,” Schleyer said. “You see some stuff that’s unique and original. People do homemade stuff.”
Rau has also received unique items. One of her favorites, she said, came when someone bought and peeled too many potatoes for a recipe.
“They posted the excess; I claimed it; they hung the bag on their fence in real time,” Rau said. “I got a nice brisk neighborhood jog in; they didn’t feel wasteful; and we had delicious mashed potatoes that night—win-win-win.”
Schleyer said members usually behave.
They often use abbreviations such as EPP (easy porch pick-up), APU (arranged pick-up, such as a person-to-person handoff) and NIL (next in line).
A long list of “NIL” comments might appear on a post as people wait to see if the person before them has a change of heart.
Schleyer said the page is all about community building.
“It’s just a neat little thing.”