Give or Take: Chicago

[This text was originally published in AREA Chicago #1 in August 2005]

By Salem Collo-Julin

Free stuff is considered necessary, surprising, and sometimes suspect. People never want to take free stuff when it’s handed to them on the street. You wonder if the giver is really trying to sell you something, or proselytizing, or both. It’s hard on givers as well. You give something away and wonder if someone else may have needed it more.

In a big city like Chicago, there are many public and private resources and organizations that either provide free services or serve as depositories for free goods. The trick is not only to find out about these moments of generosity, but also to understand how to integrate the principles of a true ‘gift economy’ into one’s daily life.

Give or Take: Chicago is the name I have given to an ongoing list of resources that tap into this truly free market. Give or Take will essentially be a searchable directory of:

  1. places to get free items
  2. places that give away free services
  3. places to drop off items you would like to give away
  4. places that need people to help them serve

My goal is to have a database that is accessible to a broad spectrum of Chicagoans. In this spirit, Give or Take will include listings from both the public and private sectors. Government services, like the CORE Center (a facility run by Cook County that provides free health and social services to people affected by HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases) will be included along side volunteer, from the ground groups like Food Not Bombs (an international group that provides free public meals).

Ideally, Give or Take will be an annual publication with a complimentary internet presence. This will allow us to record a history of past free services and centers, and to update the current listings in an efficient manner.

Give or Take will be available for free, and is intended as a full volunteer effort. This is a new undertaking, and I’m interested in finding more resources.

Please contact me if you know of a place or group that should be listed in Give or Take. I am also interested in hearing from people who have ideas about Give or Take’s format, or would like to discuss the idea of the ‘gift economy’, the ‘open source’ movement, and more.

This project is inspired by many things including Freecycle (TM) , various zine guides to free health services in Chicago (one issued by the A-Zone collective ten years ago and another new one by the Pomegranate Radical Health Collective stand out), the open source movement (software makers sharing to spur new creativity), and participating in potlucks.

To participate, contact Salem Collo-Julin.

Mail:          C/O Temporary Services | P.O. Box 121012 | Chicago, IL, 60612



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