The Spirit of Giving Takes Center Stage at the St. Augustine Buy Nothing Group Holiday Party

Emma Greer, Raye Coleman, Rolanda Barber and Keimora at the St. Augustine Buy Nothing Holiday Party
Emma Greer and Raye Coleman wrapping gifts for Rolanda Barber and Keimora.

The spirit of giving was at the center of the St. Augustine Buy Nothing Holiday Party and Kids Shop, which was hosted by the St. Augustine Buy Nothing (Northeast) group at the Solomon Calhoun Center. 

"It is a community, where we help each other," says Rolanda Barber, who had brought Keimora to the holiday party. "I'm a part of the Buy Nothing group, and we were invited to come out so that she can get a chance to fellowship and get gifts and feel the love and give the love."

Lynn Pearce at the St. Augustine Buy Nothing Group Holiday Party and Kids Shop
Lynn Pearce greeting families at the door.

Lynn Pearce greeted families arriving at the holiday party. "I'm here because they needed volunteers to help organize the people coming in by family, so the kids coming in to shop, they have a card with them that tells who they're shopping for. Then they have a helper, once they get inside that goes through and helps them pick out the items for their family." 

Pearce's favorite part of the group is the willingness of the members to give to help other people, and she encourages anyone interested to join. "Do it! Everybody that is in the group is very friendly, and they'll help with anything you need."

Lisa Martinez helping Willow Hensell at the St. Augustine Buy Nothing Group Holiday Party and Kids Shop
Lisa Martinez helping Willow Hensell shop for gifts for her family.

Helen Hensell had brought her children Willow and Phoenix to shop for gifts at the event, and volunteers were ready to help so that the kids could shop and even get their gifts wrapped without anyone seeing their surprises. "Everybody is willing to come together to help, even those they've never met," says Hensell about the Buy Nothing group. "I just love how everyone is so generous and so selfless because you don't really see that in society nowadays. Everybody is just so materialistic, and it is such an every man for himself mentality, and this group just changes all that. It is refreshing to see it, and it makes me proud to be a part of this community."

Willow Hensell with Santa Claus and Mrs. Clause (Abe and Lisa Nelson) in St. Augustine Florida
Willow Hensell with Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus

Abe and Lisa Nelson, two Buy Nothing Group members, were ready to join the party, so even though the children came to shop for others, they also had a chance to tell Santa and Mrs. Claus what was on their own wish lists this year. 

Raye Coleman and Mallory Schonder Parson, administrators for the St. Augustine Buy Nothing Group Northeast
Raye Coleman and Mallory Schonder Parson, administrators for the St. Augustine Buy Nothing Group Northeast

Raye Coleman and Mallory Schonder Parson, volunteer administrators for the St. Augustine Buy Nothing Group Northeast, had been busy planning the Buy Nothing Holiday Party and Kids Shop for several months, and the event was a great success because of it. 

"I wanted something for members to see each other, to be able to have something for Christmas," says Schonder Parson. "A lot of the members in our group come from a lower-income area, so kids can't necessarily afford to go buy something for their siblings and their parents and grandparents, and it is just a really fun way to give back to our Buy Nothing community. For everybody to just kind of see each other in person. We do a lot of porch pick ups and drop offs, so you don't really meet the people you're talking to, so here you're seeing face to face a lot of these people that you're getting to know, and it's just fun."

Coleman was busy wrapping gifts with her volunteer helpers so that the kids would return home with gifts already wrapped and with gift tags on each gift for everyone in their households. "It is great. It is a lot of fun, everybody looks so cute in their little Christmas outfits. It is really nice to put faces to names, and actually to see everybody and their kids. Everybody is in good spirits, and everybody who is here wants to be here. There is nothing but joy." Coleman explains that everything at the party had been gifted from members of the St. Augustine Northeast Buy Nothing group, some had been dropped off, but much of it had been picked up by Schonder Parsons, whenever someone gifted it to the group. 

Angelique Quiros crafting at the St. Augustine Buy Nothing holiday party.ue (craftstable)
Angelique Quiros crafting at the St. Augustine Buy Nothing holiday party.

"I joined the Buy Nothing club a few months ago," says Alicia Quiros. "I love not only sharing but being able to get a couple of quick things that I couldn't afford. It is just nice. You recycle, you share, and then it makes you go in your garage and get rid of things that you were just holding onto."

Quiros volunteered to be in charge of the crafts table at the party with her daughter Angelique, who also came to shop for gifts for members of her family. "I love the fact that when you give something, you know it is immediately being used, whereas a lot of times when you donate, you don't really know what's going to happen to it. I also love the fact that it doesn't cost the person anything, and it doesn't really cost you anything either, you're just gifting from your excess, and they're gifting from their excess, so it really makes it nice." 

Shelbie Bradley, Steven Miller and Rowan Miller at the St. Augustine Buy Nothing Holiday Party and Shop
Shelbie Bradley and Steven Miller with Rowan getting a holiday photo taken at the event.

Shelbie Bradley and Steven Miller had brought their little one with them to the Buy Nothing Holiday Party and Gift Shop event. "We're here to let our kid shop for people that we couldn't afford to buy for this year, and just to come out and have some fun," says Bradley. "I just love that they are here to help people in need. If you need something they're here to help if they can, and everybody is really friendly." 

St. Augustine Buy Nothing Holiday Party and Kids Shop

St. Augustine has several Buy Nothing Groups, and the Buy Nothing St. Augustine (northeast) group includes members of the community, who lives east of I95, north of SR312, west of Anastasia Island, and south of International Golf Parkway, and it includes the Vilano Beach area. 

Schonder Parson founded the Buy Nothing St. Augustine Northeast group in April of 2020, and it is a sprout from another group that she originally started in. "Buy Nothing is more than just a typical free site. It is a community, and that is one of the things that I love about it, that it is not just give me, give me, give me, there is community, and there are people helping each other, and you are helping your neighbors, and that's what it is all about."

The Buy Nothing group works on the gift economy concept, and it follows rules set by the original Buy Nothing founders. "The gift economy means that there is no bartering, selling, purchasing, none of that stuff is going to happen. It is all no-strings-attached giving and receiving," says Schonder Parson. "Even as an admin, I have gotten just as much out of the group as I have put in. I really really love the community that we've built." 

With more than 1,700 members, the group is constantly growing, and the volunteer administrators keep it running smoothly. "Trying to keep everyone happy is the hardest thing," says Schonder Parson. "We've got such a large community of members and so many demographics, that it gets difficult. You cannot please everybody, and I am a people pleaser, so that gets really tough. We have to abide by rules that I didn't make, and some people don't understand that."

Buy Nothing is a worldwide network of gift economies. 

"BuyNothing offers people a way to give and receive, share, lend, and express gratitude through a worldwide gift economy network in which the true wealth is the web of connections formed between people. We believe that communities are more resilient, sustainable, equitable, and joyful when they have functional gift economies."

The Buy Nothing Project 

"Buy Nothing is a global thing, says Schonder Parson. "We have Buy Nothing groups all across the world, and the original founder set the rules. There are groups that do not abide by the rules, but we try to maintain that authenticity of the group and abide by the original rules because that keeps it running more smoothly. It really helps us as the admins to fall back on that these are the set rules, and that's what we're going to follow."

You can learn more about and join the Northeast St. Augustine Buy Nothing Group on Facebook. 

To find your local Buy Nothing Group, simply search Facebook for "Buy Nothing" and your city.

*This piece was originally posted on the West Augustine News Connection on December 3, 2022.

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