The day was warm. The sun was out. Gulfport’s Beach Boulevard was alive with the sights and sounds of vendors setting up for the Tuesday Fresh Market. Shoppers were beginning to arrive. Yet at the Art Village Courtyard, a lively group of shoppers were already waiting enthusiastically to see what treasures could be found at the monthly clothing swap to benefit CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse), a local non-profit organization that provides services to survivors of abuse or violence.
The clothing swap, as part of the Tuesday Fresh Market,
(GMA). The popular event is held the second Tuesday of each month, provided it is not raining.
“There are regular customers who come back every month,” said Linda Worsham, the clothing swap coordinator. “People come early and stay late waiting to see what is brought in.” Worsham began volunteering at the swap four years ago after moving to Gulfport, and is going into her second year as coordinator.
Volunteers get there early to set up tables and racks and assist the shoppers. According to Worsham, one of the best parts about the event is working with the volunteers who show up every month, work their two-hour shift and make everything run smoothly. “It is truly a team effort,” she said.
Although not a drop-off location, those attending can bring gently used clothing, shoes and accessories that can be exchanged for vouchers to select clothing brought in by other participants. Women’s, men’s and children’s clothing can be swapped. Those who do not want to exchange clothing can purchase vouchers for $3 each. Monetary donations to CASA are also accepted during the swap.
“The GMA derives no proceeds at all from the swap,” said Daniel Hodges, a GMA board member who managed the Fresh Market until two years ago and started the swap in 2010. “It is a community activity and community service, benefitting people that use the swap as a means for obtaining free clothing for their families, as well as CASA.”
At the end of the day, clothing is bagged up and delivered to the CASA thrift store on 1st Avenue North. “We usually have six to 10 large bags of clothing each month, sometimes more,” said Worsham. “We have been able to donate hundreds of bags of clothing and cash to CASA. The swap is fun and people like that they are benefiting CASA.”
“It’s uplifting to witness the years of consistent, ongoing support from the community through the Gulfport Tuesday Fresh Market’s monthly clothing swap,” said Nicole Worthington, CASA’s director of advancement. “The items and money donated to our thrift store are used to empower survivors with the ability to make lasting changes in their lives, and bring us one step closer to fulfilling CASA’s mission of building a community free from domestic violence.”
On this particular Tuesday, the courtyard filled quickly as shoppers obtained their vouchers and perused racks of clothing.
“It’s a lively, happy event,” said Worsham. “You just never know what’s going to be there. It’s an adventure.”
The next clothing swap is scheduled for Tuesday, April 9. For more information on the Tuesday Fresh Market Clothing Swap, go to gulfportma.com/gma-events/clothing-swap. For more information about CASA, visit casa-stpete.org.