After joining Facebook last summer, Mary Campbell did what everyone does initially. She began snooping around the site.
“I was looking for somewhere to sell some things, and I just happened to see this group page, Buy Nothing University Place/Fircrest,” Campbell said.
“The posts were usually wishes people made, things they needed or their family or a neighbor needed. I gifted some stuff. I noticed most requests were filled, and filled quickly.”
Buy Nothing is as much a movement as it is a Facebook page. The organization aims for “hyper-local groups” that change the fabric of their communities.
“We believe in abundance, we give, we ask, we share, we lend and we express gratitude,” wrote co-founder Rebecca Rockefeller, a Bainbridge Island resident. “We are a gift economy, not a charity. We see no difference between want and need, waste and treasure.
“We value people and their stories and narratives above the ‘stuff.’ ”
The stories Campbell saw posted on Facebook originated from the area where she lives in Fircrest.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. A request is written and with a few hours, it’s been filled.”
There’s no money exchanged. It’s mostly cases of people giving others things they don’t need anymore.
Campbell said she’s begun saving items — an old lamp, for instance — just in case someone online needs one.
There are Buy Nothing groups on Facebook from four sections of Tacoma, plus Puyallup, Ballard, Seattle and other communities. Go to buynothingproject.org online, and there are tips on how to start a group in your community.
Last week, as Thanksgiving approached, Campbell had a request of her own.
“I had surgery on my right hand in May and I’m having my left wrist fused on Dec. 10,” she said. “I need physical therapy twice a week, and I’ve had shots for my right hand. I can’t type much. I’m still having trouble with both hands.
“I’m 57, my son is 32, and I wanted to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner for both of us. I asked for help, a small turkey …”
The results, she said, have overwhelmed her.
I was overwhelmed by their generosity. I’d gifted others with small things, but it was like I’d gone viral. One woman messaged me that she didn’t have anything to add to the meal, but would I like a haircut?
“I started getting a response within a few minutes. Someone came by with this huge frozen turkey — 20-25 pounds! I couldn’t lift it into my freezer, they had to do it.”
“A woman told me I couldn’t just have turkey, so she went to the store and picked up things to make gravy, bought me a roasting pan.”
Another Buy Nothing member promised a bean casserole. Another pledged an apple pie.
Soon the small turkey became a feast, and Campbell was left humbled and stunned.
“I was overwhelmed by their generosity,” she said. “I’d gifted others with small things, but it was like I’d gone viral. One woman messaged me that she didn’t have anything to add to the meal, but would I like a haircut?
“She’s a hairdresser, and I’ll be getting my hair cut before Thanksgiving!”
All of it for someone none of the gifters knew.
“No one wanted publicity, no one wanted to talk about it in print,” Campbell said. “This community comes together at a moment’s notice. This happened to be for a holiday meal, but if I’d said last summer I needed food, the community would have responded then, too.
“It’s one of the things that drew me to the group. If someone has a need, and I have something that will help, I gift it. It’s that simple. I’ve met five or six people who wanted to gift something this week.
“Since last summer, I’ve probably met four or five others I was able to gift.”
Campbell is on disability because of her hands and wrist, a divorced woman with a grown son. The two will be together on Thanksgiving, and will share a fabulous meal.
“Then we’ll pull down our holiday DVDs, you know, like ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ and the Charlie Brown holiday shows and watch them together,” Campbell said. “It’s a very special day, made more special by some wonderful people.”