Small Town Tradition Makes Big Impact

BARNET - When COVID hit Vermont back in early 2020, it brought many hardships for people like unemployment, food insecurity, and no social interaction. Despite the negative impact, a local Barnet woman, Joyce Evans, found a way to bring people some joy by giving out used clothes. Now, this small-town tradition is taking off.

 "I will say it was my idea," Evans explained. "This started last year when COVID started, and people weren't going out shopping. You know money was a situation last year, so I foolishly said why don't we do a giveaway. I mean we got so much stuff it was amazing, we had way more than we have now. Then it just sort of took off."

Evans has done two giveaways each year since 2020, one in the winter and one in the spring. As many as 100 people come to grab clothes. "It's young, old, people with kids. So it works out to everyone's benefit," she explained. The event brings in over 200 donations for each giveaway, and Evans and her volunteers spend more than 60 hours on this project. The giveaway spans from Friday to Sunday, with the first day being for Barnet residents only. The next two days are for anyone who wishes to come, even people as far as New Hampshire, for free clothes.

In the past, after the event is over, Evans brings extra clothes to motels and hotels in the area where homeless people stay for the winter. This time around, she looks to give to H.O.P.E., Umbrella, Salvation Army, Eastern Avenue Thrift Shop, and Northeast Kingdom Youth Services.

Evans says she would never be able to do this work without the help of her volunteers like Sydney Clapp. Clapp is a mom of six and is new to the area. She heard about the giveaway from a friend and decided to join to set an example for her kids. "My 12-year-old didn't want to wake up in the morning to go that early. She says 'I don't know why we have to go,' and I'm like 'because somebody has to do it. If you're not willing to be the person to do it then you can't expect somebody else to. Someone has to do it, and sometimes that person always has to be you,'" Clapp explained. Evans says she's been a big part of making this year's giveaway possible.

The giveaway also gives much relief to community members, especially parents. Megan Durling and her husband are both school teachers and are expecting their first child. It's been hard for them to keep up with rent in this area. Durling said this giveaway takes some stress off of her to be able to provide for her child. "I mean it's a huge relief just to have such a strong community in the Kingdom. Which is one of the reasons that my husband and I stay here. Even though financially it's so difficult to make it. We've had so many neighbors and so many friends step forward to help us as we are going through financial difficulty. So it's such a huge relief to have people like this around," Durling explained.

Evans wishes to continue her work in Barnet, but she is getting older and thinking about moving. "My husband keeps telling me to stop, but I don't listen to him," she said. Clapp promised Evans if she does it one more time in the spring, Clapp will take over.

If you wish to attend the spring giveaway, make sure to look on Front Porch Forum for more information.