- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 23, 2014

AUBURN, Ind. (AP) - Pay It Forward, DeKalb County, has gained 2,000 members since June.

The Facebook-based charity, which connects people looking to give away household items with other people who want them, has grown to 3,300 members since Auburn-resident Amy Silvarman started the group last spring.

She and her husband, Rich, have their hopes set on growing the organization further. Already, Pay It Forward has hosted events, both online and offline, that go beyond its core function. Eventually, the Silvarmans said, they would like to move into a brick-and-mortar storefront with the group.

Pay It Forward works like this: A member posts on the group’s Facebook page that he needs, say, some spoons. Another member of the groups replies, saying she has some extras. The two then coordinate regarding the group’s pickup locations.

Conversely, members will post pictures of items they wish to give away, and Pay It Forward “shoppers” comment on the post, asking for them.

Pay It Forward operates pickup locations in Waterloo, Garrett, Fort Wayne and Auburn. The givers bring their donations to the locations, and the receivers come get to them.

Volunteers with Pay It Forward have taken the system and run with it, hosting free daily raffles for items and staging various other charitable cyber events.

Volunteer Ashley Butler, for example, ran a Christmas tree drive in the past few weeks. She noticed a lot of people were requesting them on the page so she wrote down their names and began connecting families with trees.

As of Monday, 108 families had trees thanks to Pay It Forward, Amy Silvarman said. Auburn’s Preferred Auto donated 15 living trees, and the rest, mostly artificial, came from all over, Butler said.

Faith Robison, another volunteer, organized a “12 Days of Christmas” giveaway. Through November, she put together age- and gender-appropriate presents for kids, from newborns to 11-year-olds. For the first week-and-a-half of December, the Facebook page hosted raffles every day for these prewrapped presents.

All told, the 12 Days of Christmas gave Christmas presents to 111 children, Robison said.

She said her own kids came up with the idea.

“We have been, in the past, in a shelter ourselves, so we know what it’s like, when we were living in a shelter, coming down Christmas morning and having nothing there,” Robison told The Star of Auburn (http://bit.ly/1ADCN9y ) .

Butler and the Silvarmans echo Robison’s sentiment: They were down, they received help, they want to help others now.

The group runs with 18 volunteers, including five administrators on the Facebook page and 13 other helpers.

Pay It Forward often receives bulk donations, the Silvarmans said. Their garage and a separate storage building are brimming with stuff for the group.

For donated items, administrators and helpers pick up bags of donations. They sort through them, post each item on the Facebook page and transport them to their proper pickup locations.

All of this is done voluntarily, with no financial support from the group, the Silvarmans said. Pay It Forward’s biggest cost - gasoline money - comes from the volunteers’ pockets.

In fact, Pay It Forward has no finances whatsoever. It subsists entirely on material donations and volunteer hours. The Silvarmans said they hope eventually to become an official nonprofit, although that will take monetary sponsorship.

Its mission is to help people, not to make a profit, the Silvarmans said. So if anyone from the page is caught selling items acquired through Pay It Forward, that person is banned from the group.

A whole list of other guidelines govern interaction on the page. Those rules include two imperatives: Respect and nonjudgment. Break those rules, Amy Silvarman said, and you are off the page.

“We don’t ask questions, we don’t ask proof, and we don’t judge,” she said. “We don’t leave anyone out.”

Over time, the group has become more than a material resource, Silvarman said: It’s an online support group. Members often share parts of their own stories and request prayers.

“It’s so devastating (to go through difficult times) by yourself,” Butler said. “It’s important to have people to talk to, because trying to deal with something like that by yourself, it just feels like you are completely alone.”

The group connects people in bad circumstances with others who have escaped their own troubled times, Butler said.

Through their stories, “you know that there is a way out of it,” Butler said, “that there is a silver lining, a light at the end of that tunnel.”

The Silvarmans run the Auburn pickup depot from their front porch. A row of large plastic totes lines the wall, ordered alphabetically based on the recipients’ names.

Members of the group come and go as they please, the Silvarmans said. Rich Silvarman said he installed a motion-sensor light on the porch so people can grab their stuff at night.

He reflected cheerfully on the nice porch furniture they used to put out there - and also on his old parking spot in the garage that is now filled with Pay It Forward donations. Why did they give up those things?

“Why not?” Amy Silvarman answered. “It’s to help. We give up to give.”

___

Information from: The (Auburn, Ind.) Star, http://www.dekalbstar.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide