In a day and age when many people have homes, garages and storage units jam-packed with items that no longer bring joy, one woman is providing inspiration to clear the clutter while helping others.
Shari Fling, of Peace United Methodist Church in Orlando, knows how stuff can stack up and has sought a creative way to help people reduce their amount of possessions. She works to benefit others who are in need of those unwanted items or who have a desire to share them.
The events are called “gift shares,” and Fling is a huge proponent of them.
“Peace Church has held this glorious event for several years now,” Fling reported. “Each year it becomes bigger and better.”
Gift shares have people bring items they no longer want or need to the church, where members of the congregation or community can shop—free of charge—for anything they might need for themselves or someone they know.
“This event can help focus church members on others’ needs so they can release their excess stuff,” Fling said. “People who desire gifts for friends or need items for themselves can acquire them without money.”
Fling offered that it’s also a great opportunity for children to experience the joys of giving firsthand.
She says that when people come to the gift shares, volunteers hand out bags and tell others not to be shy, explaining that there is probably something there for them.
“It happens too. Exact things that were on people’s wish lists often appear at the shares,” Fling said. “Seeing the look on people’s faces when they are told to just ‘take what they like’ is priceless.”
While most gift shares traditionally take place at Christmas, Fling has held a back-to-school clothing drive and says that there are numerous occasions and themes around which an event could be planned. She advises organizers to advertise it weeks, or even months, ahead of the scheduled date.
“On the day of the event, set out tables and have a merchandising person or team sort and display the incoming items,” Fling said. “Then simply hand out bags and encourage people to take what they want. At the end of the event, just pack up any leftover items and donate them to a pre-designated charity,” she said.
Other UMC members and leaders interested in bringing gift shares to their churches can seek input and advice from Fling by reaching out to her at (407) 595-4120 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I feel that gift shares must spread to other churches,” she said. “It is an easy, low or no cost event that is fun and community building. I get so excited about it,” Fling added. “It’s a great outreach ministry, and it’s what Christians are supposed to do.”
--Jessica Chapman is a freelance writer based in Lakeland.
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