Whittier Free Store: A Sharing Economy Initiative

The Whittier Free Store - like a consignment shop, but the items are free - accepts donations of unused items in good condition and offers those items to the general public.

A free store looks like a thrift store, but the community-building nature of a free store leverages access to inventory and volunteers that are untapped by conventional thrift stores.

By sharing instead of shopping, we can increase our community connections and reduce our carbon footprint.

We invite neighbors to enroll as members, for free, to gain access to free goods in a retail location, and to share their unused goods with other neighbors, instead of throwing goods away or paying for storage.

The project’s adjoining Artisan Work Lab provides a co-work studio space, media bank, tool library, and small business incubator for artisans to disassemble, upcycle, refurbish, reupholster, and repair diverted free store waste materials under the mentorship of professional artists and local retail shop owners.

Instead of relating to people through money, feeling limited by budget, or feeling too overwhelmed to forge connections at random, the sharing economy opens the door to connection and to the experience of abundance.

There is enough for everyone.

Artisan Work Lab

After its Phase 2 completion in 2017, the project became known as Make Space: Free Store and Artisan Work Lab.

It's a new day for waste stream diversion: Imagine new fashion found in old clothes, found objects turned into sculpture, printmaking on any surface, and housewares transformed into valuable works of functional art.

We divert surplus goods and art supplies collected by the Free Store into the Artisan Work Lab (AWL), a small business incubator, media bank, tool library, and co-work studio. As this space develops and grows in membership, increasing numbers of artists will be able to access studio space, equipment, and business support which they otherwise might not be able to afford on an individual basis.

Artist cooperative: The artist-owned Party Citadel worker cooperative will develop and manufacture a product line featuring party and event supplies, made from diverted waste materials from the Whittier Free Store, providing an alternative to single-use disposables, and ultimately providing cooperative business ownership for local artists. 

To learn more about Party Citadel, or to schedule a tour of the Artisan Work Lab, email Megan at megan.hobza@gocatalyst.org.

The Whole Place 

The classrooms housing our projects sat empty since 1972 - over 40 years. In 2014, the board at First Christian Church voted to pass responsibility for its extensive buildings to a committee of tenants, the Wholeness Community, which in turn established The Whole Place community nonprofit to support emerging nonprofits with free space for events, co-working, and meetings.

The Whole Place is a nonprofits incubator and community possibility engine championing wholeness and social justice. As a member of The Whole Place of Whittier, we're rehabilitating and reactivating empty spaces for the benefit of the greater Whittier community.

Organizational members of The Whole Place include New Heart Community Church, Just Love Coalition, Matthew 25 Whittier, Slow Food Preservers Los Angeles, Hilltoppers 4-H, Girl Scouts, Academy of Music for the Blind, Millennium School of Theology, Village Learning Center, Whittier's First Day homeless services, Intercommunity Counseling Center, Whittier Area Literacy Council, CAPC Inc. serving adults with developmental disabilities, twelve-step groups, alternative healing and education practitioners, and Catalyst Network of Communities projects including Make Space: Free Store & Artisan Work Lab.

Catalyst Network of Communities

The Catalyst Network of Communities is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit social impact organization helping you to connect, collaborate, and share resources. We do this by creating projects that inspire empathy and understanding between people. We are building a community of catalysts that embody the common values for building relationships, establishing partnerships, encouraging contribution, and inspiring growth. Connect and affect!