Student free-for-all: Winter warmup helps students bundle up

Lilly Necker / Sun Star Reporter
Sept. 27, 2011

For two years, the university has helped the Fairbanks community come together in pursuit of free stuff. This weekend, that tradition will be passed on to the students. On Oct. 1, Summer Sessions and Lifelong Learning will host the first University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Winter Warm-up — an extension of the biannual Really Free Market.

Two years ago, director of Summer Sessions Michelle Bartlett  first heard about a Really Free Market in New York where people gave things they didn’t need to people who may need them — for free.

“I thought right away, if they can do it, we can do it! Fairbanks is the Golden Heart City. We all have so much in our houses – sometimes it’s just in the wrong house,” Bartlett said.

Working with the idea, Bartlett offered a free lunch to people from Financial Aid, Dining Services and the Student Recreation Center to recruit people to help.

Lydia Anderson, the Wood Center director, decided to volunteer.

“It’s all about the university giving something back to the Fairbanks community and about sustainability as well,” Anderson said. “What a great way to recycle and reuse.”

Bartlett and Anderson enlisted the help of a group of faculty members and coordinated the first Really Free Market in June 2009. Two more markets followed in 2010. This year the university also hosted two markets — one in May and one in August.

At each market, donors dropped off goods at either the Patty Center or Nenana parking lots, leaving them available for anyone to take.

“We worked together with the campus dorms for our Free Market last year and had tons of clothes and all kind of stuff that students leave behind after the semester,” Bartlett said. “Other students, especially those who live in dry cabins, often have barely nothing at the beginning of the semester and need what ever they can get. So why not mobilize the whole UAF faculty and staff to donate everything they don’t need and give it to our students,” Bartlett said.

The student-only market will be winter-themed.

“It’s getting cold soon and most of the students aren’t well prepared enough or don’t have the money to buy expensive winter clothing,” Anderson said. “We want them to stay warm and get ready.”

Anyone who wants to donate jackets, boots, ice skates, skis or other items can drop things off in the Wood Center on Oct. 1 between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Items will be categorized and laid out on tables in the Wood Center Multilevel Lounge from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.. Everything will be divided into three categories: clothing, sporting goods and household goods.

“They only conditions are, the things need to be clean, usable and safe,” Bartlett said.

Bartlett hopes the students will show up and help themselves. If the event goes well, this won’t be the last Winter Warm-Up. “I would like the two Really Free Markets for the Fairbanks community and the one only for students to become a tradition,” Bartlett said.

“It’s our pilot program where we try to find out if there is need out there and if there enough people who bring things. It feels like before a big potluck where you don’t know if there will be any food and people in the end,” Anderson said.

The event organizers are still looking for volunteers for Oct. 1. They need about 20 volunteers to help to sort the items on the different tables. If anyone is interested in volunteering or has any questions, email Lydia Anderson at or call Summer Sessions and Lifelong Learning at 474-7021.

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