Hornby Island Free Store recycled for new outlet

Hornby Islands’ popular Free Store has been a place to share and recycle goods and to meet up with neighbours for more than three decades.

Now, the store itself is being recycled to make way for a 1,900-square-foot replacement.

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The Comox Valley Regional District has awarded a contract of up to $146,900 to C & W Campbell Homes Ltd. to build the new space. It’s a simple design with frame construction, a metal roof and cedar fascia boards and will be attached to the store’s office and boutique, which are remaining in place as an intrinsic part of the island’s recycling depot.

The original Free Store was deemed unsafe and has been dismantled. Materials in good condition will be recycled from the old store, said recycling depot manager Stani Veselinovic.

The new store will open early in the new year.

The Free Store is run by volunteers eager to help other residents and keep their areas as green as possible.

Passing unwanted items along to others is part of their community ethos. It also makes economic sense because everything someone doesn’t want has to be shipped off island.

“It is a culturally important thing to Hornby Island,” said Janet LeBlancq, administrator of the Hornby Island Residents and Ratepayers Association, which operates the store under a contract with the regional district. An association committee oversees the volunteer operation.

Anything that can be reused cycles through the store. Kitchen items, kayaks, boats, books, candle holders and clothing are among items donated and eventually adopted into new homes.

“Many of our citizens get all their clothing from the Free Store,” said LeBlancq, who used to manage the recycling depot.

“We just don’t throw stuff out. Things go to the Free Store.”

Hornby Island has a population of about 1,000.

“We really, really do not waste. The Free Store is the banner of our whole waste diversion,” LeBlancq said.

The recycling depot’s website states the island reuses more than 70 per cent of material in its waste stream.

Like many Hornby residents, Greg Titcomb is at the Free Store weekly. It’s where everyone takes their waste and donations.

Michelle Easterly, owner of the Handmade Harmony Hide-Away on Hornby, spent part of a visit in 1978 building the original roof on the Free Store.

When Easterly moved to the island in 1985, the Free Store was an essential part of stocking her home and outfitting her family.

“It was where we lived from — all my kid’s clothes — and you’d get whatever you needed. You’d go there and say, ‘This is what I need’ and there it would be.”

In recent times, Easterly has picked up warm clothing, bathing suits and other items her guests might need.

“We all go to the Free Store for one reason or another. We either get things or drop things off,” she said.

It’s a major hub and reflects the commitment of residents to recycling.

“Maybe more people will understand about repurposing. Maybe we will save the planet after all,” Easterly said.

Hornby’s Free Store is among several operations on and around Vancouver Island offering free or low-cost items under various operating models, typically located at recycling depots. Along with free stores, there are also periodic auctions of items to raise money to support recycling.

At Saltspring Island’s recycling depot, many materials are re-used. A book and magazine exchange, which includes records, tapes and CDs, is run by volunteers. The Gabriola Island Recycling Organization accepts donated items to resell at low prices, with revenue going to supporting local recycling projects.

Pender Island’s ReDirectory operates on the idea of “give what you can, take what you need.” Donations of household electronics, small appliances, dishes, knickknacks, tools are among the items that come in.

“We encourage people to donate money for the items that they take, but only if they can. If everyone donates when they can, we help those islanders who need something they just can’t pay for. It’s a win-win,” its website states.

On Saturna Island, the recycling centre’s website promotes its free store stating, “Don’t throw away good items. Give them a new home through the Free Store! Free Store items are available to anyone who needs them.”

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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