My Volunteer Journal: Episode 21- In the Trenches with Swap-O-Rama-Rama

wiggit-and-fry2Swap-o-rama-rama is one of those perfectly-original-amazingly-convenient-eco-friendly volunteer activities that has many many pros:

1) You get rid of old t-shirts!

I’ve been meaning to clean out my t-shirt drawer for months.  Thank God this event finally forced me to do it. I did manage to put off the cleaning until 30 minutes before the event, but I did eventually cut my t-shirt supply in half.  Each volunteer was asked to contribute a bag of unwanted shirts.  For the general public admission is $10 without a bag of t-shirts, $5 with a bag.  I walked in and handed my bag to a woman sorting different sizes and types of shirts onto huge tables. People then gathered around these tables to look through and find t-shirts they wanted to reinvent. 

2) You know your cast away shirts are going to a good cause.

Once people had picked out their “new” shirts they journeyed into the main design hall where artists and designers had set up different stations.  You could turn your t-shirt into a reusable shopping bag, stuffed animal, or necklace. Others just recreated the original t-shirt by altering it, painting it, or adding an appliqué. Everyone was so excited to be working with “old shirts” it was oddly inspiring.  I even saw a lady with one of my more tasteless shirts from college which read, “Make him beg” across the chest.  She had done some alterations and stenciled a heart below the lettering.  I complimented her on it and told her it used to be mine.  “How great,” she said. “My dog visits hospitals to cheer up the patients.  He’s going to wear this!” Absolutely, I thought, that is definitely a much better use for that shirt.

3) You help foster creativity and the resourceful reuse of unwanted items.

My job as a volunteer at Swap-O-Rama-Rama was to keep supplies like scissors and needles readily available and to give people advice on possible alterations.  At first I felt really self-conscious about giving out any ideas. I’m not a designer. What do I know?  But as the afternoon wore on and I began to get into the creative flow I realized it was okay to make mistakes. I began to feel like an artist.  I think everyone felt a little of that same energy because the creations I was seeing were as original as each of the people. The best part was that everyone no matter the age, race, or sex was having a great time.

4) Helping the Earth

Yes, this is helping the earth.  It’s even better than recycling it’s reusing.  Remember the order of importance is: Reduce, Reuse, and then Recycle.  Instead of people going out and buying new t-shirts made with tons of pesticides (in the case of traditional cotton) or petroleum (synthetics) Swap-o-rama-rama encourages people to re-imagine and reinvent clothes.  Even better the old clothes used stay out of a landfill!

5) You get to leave with a unique gift for yourself or someone else.

During my volunteer time I took a short spin at “the monster table.” At this table people were taking t-shirts or scraps of t-shirts and making little monsters, birds, or tree pillows and decorating them with buttons, ribbons, and such.  I had no use for a little pillow, but my new kitten Fry (as in small) could use a toy to chew on so I decided to make her a blue bird with a green tale and comb. I named my creation Wiggit.  Wiggit was a lot of fun to make and Fry loves her – see picture. Helpful hint: When making toys for babies, cats, or dogs do not use buttons – it’s a choking hazard!

6) Free pizza and or snacks!!!!

Whole Foods catered the event. Snacks were free. Enough said.  Many thanks to Whole Foods. Yummy pizza by the way.

After the event was over the volunteers sorted the left over t-shirts which were given to Goodwill and Out of the Closet.  

Needless to say I advise everyone to give Swap-O-Rama-Rama a shot either as a volunteer or participant because I guarantee you’ve never done anything like it before and it's really fun. And if your town hasn't done one yet organize one yourself!