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Free clothes swap held at Ossipee Mountain Grange Hall

THE CLOTHING SWAP, hosted by Josh Arnold and Jackie Witham, was held recently on the second floor of the Ossipee Mountain Grange Hall. (Courtesy photo) (click for larger version)
November 24, 2010
OSSIPEE — "Reduce, reuse, and recycle," is more than just a motto for Josh Arnold and Jackie Witham, two local environmental activists who take to heart "green" efforts and try to live within their own set of environmentally conscious parameters.

While lowering a community's carbon footprint, saving energy and imparting "green" knowledge is a large part of their everyday lifestyles, as witnessed through their activity with Global Awareness Local Action (G.A.L.A.), a local organization geared towards building sustainable communities of which Arnold is the Executive Director and Witham the Event Coordinator, both Arnold and Witham have new ideas about ways the community can get involved.

One idea the duo recently introduced to the area was that of a clothing-swap. Different from a thrift store, in that everything is free, a local clothing-swap provides a venue for people to "shop" without expending lots of energy and by consuming less.

Having recently cleaned out their closets, the idea came to Arnold and Witham when they realized the heap of clothing they'd created on the floor consisted of many pieces that still had value and were in good shape. The growing pile of garments prompted them to wonder if others might also have well kept clothing sitting in the recesses of their closets and if they too would like an alternative to throwing them out.

"Energy and natural resources (oil, coal, plastics, fibers, etc.) are all used during the making and the distribution of a piece of clothing," explained Arnold, "and it is precisely these things that we need to use less of in order to promote a healthier planet."

The clothing swap, held on the second floor of the Ossipee Mountain Grange Hall, which currently serves as the couple's home as well as office space for G.A.L.A, offered a place for people to drop off and swap used clothing at their leisure.

Making free clothing accessible within the community while simultaneously encouraging shoppers to consume less was an optimistic goal, but within the two weeks the clothing swap was held, it was deemed worthwhile. For a first time event in this area, the swap was steady. Unsure exactly how many people participated, because the "boutique" was accessible daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., of those they did meet coming or going with bags full of clothing, they were of all ages.

Arnold explained another advantage to the swap, "… there was no exchange of money. We were able to demonstrate what a community could do for one another that is built on altruism and a conscious regard for the earth."

The swap may become an annual event.

It is just one of many happenings occurring at the Ossipee Mountain Grange Hall, of which the revitalization of has become central to Arnold's career path and goal's since purchasing the building in the summer of 2008.

Always on the lookout for more volunteers and supporters, Arnold encourages people to "adopt" a part of the renovation project, such as the porch, the parking lot, or new windows, which will all help bring the century old building up to code. Each update to the three-story building helps to expand what the Grange is permitted to offer to the community.

"We will be setting up a fund for these purposes so that people who want to be a part of the revitalization process can invest directly to certain improvements to the building or aspects of the initiative," explains Arnold whose hope is to "revitalize the space so that it may serve once again as a community hub of sorts."

Currently G.A.L.A's office occupies a portion of the first floor; however, Arnold said, if all goes as planned it will also be home to a local foods coop, "sort of like a four season farmers' market." The Grange is looking for people interested in pre-membership as a way to raise money for the cause and demonstrate commitment to the business venture.

The second floor presently serves as a venue for private community events such as the recent clothing-swap. These events are "meant to bring people together in fun ways while also helping to meet basic needs," said the pair. "Sometimes this means clothes, other times food, and still other times simply entertainment."

While Jackie and Josh currently live on the third floor of the Grange, eventually they would like to transform the space into "a green-job incubator, similar to SCORE, but with a focus on business plans using a triple bottom line approach, in other words designing for social, environmental, and financial returns."

Though Arnold and Witham certainly have a lot going on they plan to also establish a Friends of the Ossipee Mountain Grange Hall program where members will have access to the space and be a part of the revitalization process.

To learn more about other events, volunteer opportunities, and home life on the Grange visit Arnold and Witham's blog at http://ossipeemtgrangehall.wordpress.com, become a friend of The Grange on Facebook or follow its Twitter feed. Otherwise Josh and Jackie can be reached at the Ossipee Mt. Grange Hall at 539-6460.

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