The good life: Students get free stuff at the Really Free Market

Ivan Kvapil/Sun Star Reporter
Sept. 17, 2013

Students rummage tfor the fall's latest fashion at the UAF Winter Warm Up. Sept. 14, 2013. Cordero Reid/Sun Star

Students rummage tfor the fall’s latest fashion at the UAF Winter Warm Up. Sept. 14, 2013. Cordero Reid/Sun Star

The idea started when Director of Summer Sessions Michelle Bartlett listened to a broadcast on National Public Radio about a Really Free Market held in New York. The markets allowed people donate items that would then be placed on tables for free.

And after researching similar events in other communities Barlett was inspired to start one in Fairbanks. After trying to start one with local non-profits, Bartlett decided to run it through the UAF outreach program. She found many like-minded individuals, such as Wood Center Director Lydia Anderson, to help create the event. The first Really Free Market in Fairbanks was held during the summer of 2008.

The first Winter Warm-Up came two years later when Bartlett and Anderson identified a big shortage in people coming to the Really Free Market, and that was students.

Many students complained that the August was too early for a market since many student were away for summer break, according to Anderson. Advertisements for Winter Warm Up was minimal, all advertising was kept on campus and unlike the Really Free Market they do not contact local non-profits for donations.

Anderson said the event has been very successful. Students often find furniture and other household objects to complete their room. Common items at the market are clothes, sporting equipment, electronics and even the occasional toilet.

 To ensure quality, volunteers look through each donated item to make sure that it is clean, safe, and usable before the market. Geology student Emily Jones, said that she enjoyed the events exciting and fun atmosphere along with its emphasis on sustainability. Jones said that she’d be willing to volunteer and help with the event next year.

Bartlett and Anderson said if not for the dedication and passion that the volunteers the event would not be possible. No one profits from the event. The volunteers dedicate their time purely to do good for the community.

“People come up and say ‘thank you for providing this service.’ And they often want to give us money and we just tell them no, because that’s the thing, is that nobody makes any money off of this.” Anderson said about the event.

Though the event has been successful, they are looking toward future events, Bartlett wants to eventually find the event a permanent home. Currently only Bartlett and a handful of people are in charge of Winter Warm Up, and since she will not be at UAF forever, the event needs to be institutionalized under a specific department. Bartlett hopes Winter Warm Up will become a Nanook Tradition,

“We all have things in our houses that belong in someone else’s,” Bartlett said.

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