By Chris T. Wilson
An Ojai mom who was moving across town had a lot of stuff to give away and found that it was a challenge getting the word out —- so she harnessed the power of online social networking.
When Barbara Amador Keenan moved with her husband, Sean, and son Hunter from downtown Ojai to Meiners Oaks a few months ago she decided to start a Facebook group to give away things she didn’t need anymore. The group is called Ojai Unconditional Give or Take and in less than half a year, supported by the friendliness of the community, the idea is really catching fire.
Now, at nearly 500 members and growing, UGoT is the place on Facebook where group members can offer a free TV or love seat or receive a basket of Meyer’s lemons or a kids’ bike. The point is, no money is exchanged.
“I thought it would be me and about 30 friends exchanging kids’ clothes,” Keenan says. “Then a lot of people got on board and it started to grow. It’s a very grass-roots kind of thing and a nice little community builder.”
To help guide the group, Keenan wrote the following intention: We, as a group, have all that we need. The intention of Ojai Unconditional Give or Take is to move these things around to the places they are needed most. Feel free to post the items you have and are willing to give away, or the items you wish to find. Please refrain from postings that involve a money exchange, advertising, bartering or trading.
More than 1,000 individual listings have been posted to group page, trading everything from free poetry to musical instruments to pets that need new homes. Others post looking for things that they want like a bicycle or television.
And the idea has spread beyond Ojai, Keenan says. Similar groups have sprung up in Austin, Texas, Portland, Ore., Sacramento, and Santa Barbara. Former Ojai resident Sally Kopf started a group in New Hampshire and there’s a group starting in Lompoc, and possibly even Australia, Keenan says.
“I think Ojai is special; because of its size, this works really well here,” Keenan says. “This kind of thing wouldn’t work in L.A. because it’s too big, but it could be built up in the neighborhoods.”
Occasionally someone will post something that borders on advertising or a veiled request for money either for products or services, so Keenan as moderator, will remove the post or restate the intention of the group. With this happening though, it has spawned two other Facebook groups. The Ojai Barter Bin allows people to offer trades of items or services, and the Ojai Community Network is for people who want to promote themselves and make money, Keenan says.
On Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. the group is having a get-together at The Village Jester for members to meet up and discuss ideas, Keenan says. A newly formed band, Sister Eclipse, will perform for the event.
“I haven’t met most of these people in person so I’m really looking forward to it,” Keenan says. “This has made Facebook really exciting for me. I love going on there and seeing how this group is growing. It’s really brought a lot of joy to my life. It’s nice to know that we have everything that we need and don’t have to go anywhere else for it. That’s exciting.”
If you have a Facebook account and would like to join the group, you can use the search box to find the group and then click the button requesting to be added to the group. Another member or moderator can approve your request and get you started on giving, taking, bartering and networking.