Take stuff, leave stuff: New ‘free store’ in Harrisburg aims to strengthen community

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – An effort is underway in Midtown Harrisburg to recycle toys, clothes, and everything else people would otherwise just get rid of. Organizers hope it’s just the first step to building a better community.

You probably wouldn’t find the small shed filled with shelves if you didn’t find the signs pointing it out from North Third Street. Heather and Zach Brooker did, along with some last-minute things for their imminent newborn; clothing, a baby tub, a bib.

“Most of my checks have been going toward bills and just to keep a roof over our heads,” Heather, a first-time mother, said.

Everything at the Free Store is, of course, free. People drop stuff off; other people take that stuff.

“I took most of the stuff that other people didn’t want from the yard sale and didn’t want it to end up in a landfill, so I’m bringing it to the Free Store,” Kendra Hoffman said, unloaded her trunk into the structure.

“It’s just a small, little, humble space and it’s always changing,” Somers Compton, who started the store, said. From shoes and clothes to toys, stuffed animals, kitchen stuff, even food, there are constantly donations coming and going.

“Not to be corny,” Compton said, “but from homeless to hipster, like, we want everybody to come here and take stuff and bring stuff.”

Compton owns and runs the Harrisburg Improv Theatre on Third Street as well as the Free Store now behind it. She started it up last summer after a successful online fundraising campaign and runs it with help from friends and volunteers, not just to provide for those who need it.

“For me, it’s really important that this stuff doesn’t end up in a landfill sooner than it can get more uses out of it,” Hoffman, who helps keep the shed tidy, said.

Compton sees it as a first step, the start of puzzle for a more community-minded, well, community.

“As crazy as it sounds,” she said, “I was hoping to open it up to other people to put their pieces into it as well.”

This first piece came at just the right time for the Brookers.

“If you need clothes or anything,” Heather said, “this is the place to come.”

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