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Natural Awakenings Naples and Fort Myers

Everything Is Free at the Really Really Free Market: Building Community and Connections, Free of Charge

Nov 02, 2010 12:29PM ● By Debra Novak

No money. No barter. No trade. Everything is free at a really really free market (RRFM). Melissa Plotkin was smitten with this concept when she visited her first RRFM in a San Francisco neighborhood three years ago. Enthused about the market’s greatest benefit—building a deeper sense of community and connection—Plotkin suggested the concept to other members of a core team that was organizing a large event in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. When she returned to Naples recently, Plotkin missed her community connections and decided it was time to introduce the RRFM to her fellow Neapolitans. Now, on the first Saturday of every month, at Fleischmann Park, Plotkin’s heart sings at the sight of individuals and families embracing something she holds dear: relationship building within a community of individuals to whom social class and financial means are irrelevant, at least from noon to 4 p.m.

“The market is like a potluck, in that you give away an object, food, service or form of entertainment that you take to it,” says Plotkin, who can barely contain her excitement for the market’s first anniversary in November. “I’m thrilled to see the support building every month,” she enthuses.

The free market is based on the tenets that there is enough for everyone; sharing is more fulfilling than owning; scarcity is a myth constructed to keep us at the mercy of the economy; and no one should have to do without food, shelter or entertainment. At the Naples RRFM, nothing is for sale and the only rule of thumb is to share and share alike. Its decentralized approach means no one is in charge, not even Plotkin, who generally gives away her talent for hostessing and networking. “When I know the hearts, gifts and intentions of people, it’s easy for me to know who they need to connect with,” she explains.

Plotkin’s knack for introducing newcomers and regulars has its benefits. “The RRFM connected a woman who needed a roommate with another woman who needed a place to live,” she recalls. “Another person started practicing yoga with a yoga teacher who came to give away his teaching skills.”

Saturday’s free items might include everything from fruit trees to positive affirmations that brighten up someone’s day or freshly laid eggs and materials that artists repurpose. “Someone brought scrap material one month, and then the following month, I asked people to use colored markers to draw pictures that represented what community looked like to them,” advises Plotkin. She gathered and tied the pieces together to create a huge banner that now hangs between two trees on market days. “We call it collaborative art,” quips Plotkin, who considers the market an open platform for different types of meet-up groups.

It’s also an opportunity to do some good beyond the day. For example, after the BP Gulf oil spill, the free market collaborated with Hooters, which donated pantyhose. Andrea’s Organic Hair Salon donated hair clippings, and a group of individuals made hair booms—enough to fill a truck bed—that were sent to New Orleans.

RRFM also continuously focuses on collecting kitchen items that are given to Family to Family, a local organization that warehouses items for families in desperate need. “This past month, food and toiletry items went to a family whose home was destroyed by lightning,” advises Plotkin, who says the market gives everyone a chance to recognize the abundance of resources that exists when we come together in community.