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Free-for-All truly free -- for all

August 14, 2010|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI
  • Luv Staley, 3, left, of Hagerstown and Serin Tegra, 4, of Greencastle, Pa., look over their small wonderful finds Saturday at the first Community Free-for-All giveaway organized by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Hagerstown at the Hagerstown Kmart parking lot.
By Yvette May, Staff Photographer

HALFWAY -- Amanda and Jason Staley sleep on the floor in their living room.

Not because they are quirky or too tired to go to bed.

The couple rents a one-bedroom apartment in Hagerstown's West End, and the bedroom is designated for their 3-year-old daughter, Luv. They do not have a bedroom or a bed.

Jason Staley, 24, was laid off from a job in metal fabrication in Greencastle, Pa., Amanda said. When his unemployment ran out, the couple moved in with his parents in Hagerstown. They saved up money from Amanda's job at the Waffle House, along with their tax return, and rented the apartment in February.

"We had to take what we could afford," said Amanda Staley, 22.

The couple recently learned that their building has gone into foreclosure, and soon they'll need to move again. On the bright side, Amanda Staley said, in their next home, they will have a bed.

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The Staleys were among a couple hundred people who went to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Hagerstown's first Community Free-for-All Saturday in the Kmart parking lot on Massey Boulevard.

Participants donated items and took home what they wanted, all for free. Wares included clothes, books, toys, household items and garden produce. Area merchants donated coupons and goods, and local musicians provided free entertainment.

Amanda Staley arrived at the Free-for-All with some shirts and a selection of books, all of which were taken by other people. Meanwhile, Jason Staley went into Kmart to apply for a job, Luv got a bagful of toys and Amanda kept an eye out for something she might need.

Then, Jim Russell, 64, and his wife Anna, 60, of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., pulled up and removed a double/queen-size maple bed from their vehicle. The Russells had seen an ad for the Free-for-All and said they thought the idea was "inspiring."

"We had a few items we didn't want," Anna Russell said. "I think it's a great idea to get them out of our basement, and if we can help someone out, that's great."

Amanda Staley snatched up the bed, dreaming of buying a mattress when she and her family move to another home.

"I'm gonna put it in the basement now. When we move, we'll have a bed at least," she said. "It's hard when you don't have money to spend except on bills. So you take what you can get, give what you can and it comes back to you."

Lou Murray, music director at Unitarian Universalist Church of Hagerstown, said individuals from the church's roughly 50-member congregation conceived of the giveaway idea while discussing ways to introduce the church to the community.

"I said, 'I know. Let's focus on the Unitarian spirit of generosity and have a giveaway event. Maybe a couple of people will decide to come and check out our services,'" Murray said.

Church members William and Alice Lawrenson, both 33, of Hagerstown, said they usually clean out their house each season and donate items to Goodwill or The Salvation Army.

"Even there, there is a cost," William Lawrenson said. "Here at the giveaway, everything is free."

Lawrenson said people seemed to have a hard time stepping away from a payment-based mentality.

"In a capitalist economy, to just give something away is not an idea people are familiar with," he said. "People were trying to come up and pay for cans of Pepsi. I told them, 'No. It's a giveaway. It's free.'"

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