It all started with my new group of business startups. We went through each member of the group, expressing our 'wish' items. You know, when you start a business, financial resources are usually stretched to the max. I generally publish a 'wish list' for my clients so that people who can help out, can do just that.

Somebody may need a desk; someone else a stove for their cooking business; another may need a software program or a power bar... the wishes are as diverse at the people who express them.

Then I publish the list and connect members through a small business site that is a comprehensive locator for business products in services in Barrie. It's called www.sbna.ca (small business network association is what the sbna stands for) It's amazing how wishes get filled! One client called to say there was a stove in her driveway and did I have any idea who gave it? No, I didn't. Another called to say that a computer business had called, supplied a used computer and even come and set it up. Now there's a customer for life!

It's sort of the pay-it-forward concept that works so well in business in the Barrie area.

Anyway, that's how it all started. I published the fall wish list for new business start ups in Barrie.

And then someone called to share the freecycle story. Petra Quinn and Lee Ann Catling are stay at home moms with businesses in the home and a real interest in computer technology. They run the freecycle web service for this region and it¹s amazing.

Here's how it works.

First, you join the Barrie site (for free) by registering through www.freecycle.org and selecting Canada, Ontario and then Barrie. Once you enter your information, Lee Ann or Petra verifies that you're legitimate and you get accepted to the freecycle family. It's a worldwide organization (with 22 million members) with a growing commitment to saving landfill space and helping people give away things they don¹t need anymore.

Petra describes how freecycle works: "It's a network for reusing items that you may have or you may need. The main object is to help people get, or get rid of, things at no costs and to save on landfill at the same time." You join for free and everything is free on the site.

You can post an item you'd like to give away. You can post an item you'd like to have.

Chairs, clothes, printers, furniture, appliances... things you no longer need or use or things you're looking for... these get posted with email addresses only. Freecycle recommends people not include their phone numbers or home addresses.

The posting goes up on the site and members are notified by email link and they can reply, forward or delete the link, as wished.

To post a Wanted item is similar. For instance, right now a freecycle member has asked for used, beginner skis and helmet for a four year old. This is not a good ad. Why? Downhill skis? Cross country skis? So Petra will contact the person who placed the notice and add some details to it.

Petra says that while homeowners are the majority of people using the site, she's seeing an increased use by small businesses.

"We get some people who bring used computers home from their work because they¹re getting rid of them... computers, printers, etc. They offer them on the site rather than have them go into landfill," says Petra.

Freecycle Barrie is growing steadily, with 37 new members in the past week. In the past week 243 new messages have been posted, a real increase from 5 postings last June. Right now there are 1,402 members in the Barrie area and Petra says she and Lee Ann are adding new people every day.

So why would a young mom with lots of activity on her hands spend time doing this valuable service?

"I love doing this. I believe in recycling things. I grew up in a large family where everything was passed on again and again. When I heard about this, I thought it was a marvellous, helpful service. It attracts like-minded people and not one penny is being made by anybody."

Petra devotes at least two hours a day to the site, doing releases, approving new members, adding new items to the site. She also responds to problems and posts notices about free events.

So, there you have it. A wonderful service that I knew nothing about until we published a "Wish List." I'll be including freecycle.org from now on.

Thanks, Petra. Thanks Lee Ann.

Visit: www.freecycle.org

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