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This free store in Gowanus is helping New Yorkers in need

The Sharing Corner has free clothes, books, toiletries and more.

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver

New Yorkers have been hard at work this year to make sure their neighbors have enough to eat with community fridges, but sometimes need goes beyond food.

Gowanus Mutual Aid hopes to address this with "The Sharing Corner," a free store on the corner of Douglass and Bond. Neighbors can drop off donations of clothing, books, personal hygiene items, non-perishable foods, toys, baby items and other things people might need, so long as they are new or in good condition. As the name suggests, these items are free to those who need them.

The Mutual Aid network takes requests and attempts to keep the store stocked with what people are looking for. When there's a surplus of something, the group works with other organizations to donate it.

Like any store, it needs someone to tidy it up, so the group's members volunteer for five-minute stints to organize the "storefront," which is a constructed space that was recently renovated and painted bright pink, blue and yellow. 

The hope is to keep the free store available for as long as possible so that Gowanus residents have what they need, according to the group.

"Mutual Aid has a long history of neighbors coming together, sharing resources and support, to care for each other’s needs, outside unjust systems of power," the group told us. "Our vision for the Free Store was for it to be a space of communal care, respect and solidarity. A place that would bring our community together — thoughtfully sharing items in good condition. A place where everyone can take what they need and leave what they can."

Gowanus Mutual Aid, like many mutual aid networks in NYC, was launched in 2020 in response to the pandemic and the its economic and social fallout. It's been busy delivering groceries and PPE as well as connecting people to social services, housing rights groups and job application help. Anyone in the area can sign up to help and donations are accepted.

As of March 5, the group had 250 members and made 206 grocery and essential deliveries, put $10,145 back into the community and fulfilled 256 requests for support fulfilled, it reported. It recently just celebrated the 100th day since the opening of The Sharing Corner.

You can visit the free store anytime, 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

Gowanus Mutual Aid Sharing Corner
Photograph: Courtesy Gowanus Mutual Aid

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