Advocacy project organizes free winter wear exchange

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/23/2020 9:34:24 PM
Modified: 11/23/2020 9:34:05 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Stacey Fontaine-Stearns is hoping an advocacy project she proposed for an assignment during a graduate school class to connect people with free winter clothing will take hold in the Upper Valley and help residents throughout the region.

Called “#FreeFridays,” the goal of the project is to encourage people to post winter items for free in the Facebook Marketplace on four consecutive Fridays, beginning on Nov. 27 and going through Dec. 18.

“Maybe someone doesn’t have the $20 to buy a coat or two coats from the Listen Center or maybe they can’t get there,” Fontaine-Stearns, of White River Junction, said. “Sometimes it’s simpler to send a message and say, ‘Is this still available?’ ”

People can then coordinate among themselves to arrange for pick-up of the items.

“I wanted to do something different, something where we’re not bringing people into close proximity with one another, we’re not putting people who are already vulnerable at greater risk … but also making it simpler,” said Fontaine-Stearns, who works for the Division for Children, Youth & Families in New Hampshire and is pursuing a master’s degree in social work online from Brescia University in Owensboro, Ky. “I’m hoping people will look at some of the things they have and maybe pass it on to someone who does need it and just trust that the person who is going to reach out to them does need it.”

#FreeFridays may also might help people who are reluctant — or embarrassed — to ask for help.

“Having been there myself sometimes you have to prioritize what you need over what you want and sometimes going without means being a little bit cold,” Fontaine-Stearns said. “But I think there is less stigma and, it’s sad to say, but I feel like it’s easier and more comfortable to say ‘I’ll take that for free. I’ll take that toddlers coat.’ I just want to see kids outside this winter play and they have coats that fit and mittens and hats.”

She also sees the project as a supplement for all of the ways people can get winter clothing in the Upper Valley, including clothing drives and giveaways.

“That was my hope, that maybe this will be just another creative and innovative way to help,” Fontaine-Stearns said. “I think if we put it out there people are going to tap into it.”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at or 603-727-3221.

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