(Photo by Leonna Heuring, Staff)
SIKESTON -- When Cindy Taylor's niece lost everything in a housefire, Taylor posted what she needed -- clothing, furniture, housewares -- on The Freecycle Network.
Taylor said she received enough responses from members of Sikeston's online recycling community to fill a house full of items for her niece who lives in Morley.
Taylor joined the Sikeston Freecycle Group in 2007 after hearing about it through an e-mail sent to her by a friend.
"I was looking for a futon mattress. My friend explained everything to me and told me that Freecycle was free. ... I did that and fell in love with it," the Sikeston resident said.
Since then Taylor has received a couch, dishwasher, swingset, camper and other items. But she's given away more than she's received -- from furniture, computers, clothing and shoes, she said.
Freecycle is an online group where individuals can post items to be given away or to seek items they may be able to use. And it's all free. The only cost is the fuel it takes to pick up an item from someone.
"If you're looking for something and needing something, you do a 'wanted' post and type what you're looking for, and if somebody has it, they can get back to you on it. If you're wanting to give something back, it works the same way. You post an offer. That way everybody knows what you need and what you're wanting to get rid of," said Sammy Nelson of Poplar Bluff, owner of the Sikeston Freecycle Group.
Freecycle has 6.35 million members in more than 85 countries since it began in 2003. Active members for Sikeston's Freecycle Group, which began in 2006, total 1,033. Other local groups include New Madrid, which has 192 active members; and Dexter, which has 729 active members.
"We've had people post for extravagant items like cars, Playstations and Wiis, but most people keep it simple with things like magazines and furniture," Nelson said.
As an owner, Nelson has the right to shut down the group and name people to help moderate the site.
"I've given away several items like water fountains. In my group, we allow pets to be given away and stuff like that," said Nelson, who has received a tent for camping from Freecycle.
Besides people receiving and getting rid of items, the environment also benefits from Freecycle.
"Freecycle keeps things out of the landfill. A lot of things people throw away are still good. There's still life to them, and somebody else can use them and who maybe don't have the money to buy," Nelson said.
Those wanting to join Freecycle just need to visit www.freecycle.org and type in the city closest to them. A list of Freecycle groups will be revealed and once a city is selected, they can follow the steps to join the group.
"We approve the membership and once we approve it, you can start posting," Nelson said.
Registration doesn't ask for much personal information; however, new members are monitored for the first 30 days, Nelson said.
New members are also asked to post something to give because there are a lot more requests than posts, Taylor said. Members can post or request items every four to six weeks, she said.
An example posting to give something would be: "I have a wooden office desk. Free for the taking. Three drawers. E-mail if interested."
Pictures can also be posted with descriptions, but most people give a detailed and -- more importantly -- honest description of the items, Taylor said.
"Members are not allowed to ask for any money, and you can't post pornography, or anything about guns or knives and nothing illegal," Nelson said. "It has to be kept legal and free."
For safety reasons, it's a good idea to take someone with you to pick up an item or meet in a public place, Taylor suggested.
"We ask that you don't go off and resell or auction an item (you get from Freecycle). If you can't use the product, post it back on Freecycle, and give it to someone else," Taylor said.
Items get snatched up quickly after they're posted, Taylor said. Registered members can elect to have e-mails sent to them as soon as an item is posted.
"You have to be quick on your feet," Taylor said. "It's like the saying, 'If you build it, they will come.' ... They come, and they're gonna take it."