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National project aims to create communities that support one another amid rising costs

A national project helps the Midlands create community support groups.

IRMO, S.C. — From gas to groceries, the price for just about everything seems to be on the rise. But a national group is creating a community in the Midlands with items at everybody’s favorite price—free.

At a time when people are scraping to get by with high prices due to inflation, people are turning to the community for support.

“It’s all just given freely and if you ask for it and someone has it and they are willing to gift to you, then that’s what we do," Chelsea Christiansen said.

She's a member of the Irmo chapter of the Buy Nothing Project. The nationwide project aims to connect people through community gifting or free market, where nothing is to be sold or bought. 

“It just gives you this community feel, this family feel, this family," Aja Jackson said. "People you don’t even know are reaching out to you giving things to you and volunteering services.”

Jackson is also a member of the Irmo chapter. She recently picked up a load of groceries from another member, Heather Crosby.

“I had somebody let me use their lawnmower when mine wasn’t working so I could cut my front lawn," Crosby said. "It’s not just stuff. It’s also service and time and helping and information sharing too.”

Chelsea, Aja, and Heather said the group is far more than just free stuff. It's more about connecting individuals in difficult times.

“Oh absolutely yeah, it’s a community to me," Chelsea said.

Each group is organized by neighborhood or municipality on Facebook. Before joining, members have to be approved by admins in the group. There's a screening process, as well, where potential members have to answer a series of questions.

The screening process acts as a safety blanket for the members to insure a safe giving group. Columbia Police Department's Major Chris White said there are extra measures for members to take when exchanging groups like this.

“The most important thing is never meet in insolation meet in a public place. Me being in law enforcement I have told people several times to meet at your local law enforcement agency," Major White said.

He also said it's important to take a partner when making exchanges with a stranger. 

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