ashland.news
July 18, 2024

The joy of giving: Ashland Abundance Swap returns — ‘We’re just delighted to be back’

Organizers estimated that more than 300 people attended the 20th annual Abundance Swap at the Historic Ashland Armory Sunday. People streamed into the building with up to three items to trade. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
December 17, 2023

Started by Sen. Golden in 2001, annual community event returns after three-year pandemic break

Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news

The holiday spirit of joyful giving and gratitude was on full display at the Historic Ashland Armory on Sunday afternoon with the return of the Abundance Swap.

Retired Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Joe Charter donned a crimson red nose, a llama Christmas sweater, and a cheerful countenance as he welcomed more than 300 attendees coming through the armory doors for the first Abundance Swap since 2019.

A first-time volunteer at the event, Charter said he attended before the pandemic when it was held annually. Created in 2001 by state Sen. Jeff Golden, D-Ashland, to combat the commercialism often associated with the holiday season, it also promotes community and connectedness.

“We’re living in abundance,” Charter told Ashland.news, describing the event. “We’re bringing good stuff to pass on, so it’s kind of like re-gifting. We all have those things that are at the corners of our closet that are good, but we don’t use.”

Oregon State Sen. Jeff Golden, who started the Abundance Swap in 2001 while he was hosting a radio show on Jefferson Public Radio, explains to “traders” how the swap will operate. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini

And that’s how the event went.

Participants, once in the door, dropped off three items and were divided into color-coded groups and waited for their turn to “shop.” No money was used, not even for the event space, which was donated by the DeBoer family. 

Sen. Golden shared instructions with the more than 300 people in attendance. Golden, a former host of Jefferson Public Radio’s The Jefferson Exchange, is known as the “The Father of the Abundance Swap.” He shared the origins of the beloved swap and what has kept it on hiatus the last three years.

“We realized that most of us who are really blessed already have a lot of nice stuff and so we started thinking about a way to kind of move it around, give them as gifts and have some alternatives to joining in the consumer frenzy this time of year,” Golden said. “It stuck and we did it every year 2001-2019.”

Leslie Lanes opened the program with chimes and a request for attendees to participate in a moment of silence and rest. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini

“Raise your hand if you’ve been to five or more of these or more,” he added.

Many in the crowd raised their hands.

“Oh, welcome back,” Golden said jovially.

“The last three years, people have said, “where’s the abundance swap? When can we do it? It didn’t quite work then but it does now and we’re just … delighted to be back.”

Volunteer Leslie Lanes also led those gathered at the venue in an extended moment of silent gratitude to take in the season and experience.

At 1 p.m. the doors opened and people began entering the Armory with their treasures. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini

“It’s wonderful to see you just mingling around, slowing down the pace of the consuming 

frenzy that we all find ourselves enmeshed in,” Lanes said. 

“One of the traditions of the Abundance Swap is to take a moment of silence and to, in ourselves, just accentuate what we’re grateful for, the generosity of our family, of our friends, of our community.”

For some, like Ashland resident George Kramer, it was their first time. He brought a never-used Kitchen Aid Spiralizer to exchange, along with an air hose for a compressor.

“I think it’s great that (Sen.) Jeff Golden created this when he had the radio show and I think it’s great that it’s continued it post-Covid,” Kramer said.

About 200 people were lined up to get into the Historic Ashland Armory for the 2023 Abundance Swap. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini

He and Joyce Van Anne are both involved with the Ashland Community Food Bank. Van Anne invited him to try out the event.

“People need food and, you know, this is a way to help folks who need other items,” Kramer said. 

“And for us, it’s great to give away stuff,” Kramer said.

Van Anne brought three books about watercolor painting, “way too many soda stream bottles,” and a red coat “that is just too red for me to wear.”

Shoppers were already eyeing the coat after she set it down.

The event space included a menagerie of items, ranging from fine art and jewelry, clocks, to new backpacks and children’s toys.

Lynn Greeley was thrilled to find a pair of ruby slippers at the Abundance Swap Sunday. She is a big Judy Garland fan and has wanted a pair of ruby slippers since she was a little girl. Lynn and her husband Brad came to Ashland from Rogue River for the event. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini

Bradley Cooper of Rogue River told Ashland.news about a treasure he found at the swap for his wife, Lynn Greeley.

Holding shoes that look a lot like the ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz,” Cooper beamed as he shared his excitement.

“When we came in, she saw them and went, ‘Those are so pretty,’ and they’re her size – 10,” Cooper said, adding that her turn hadn’t come up to shop yet, so he grabbed the shoes.

“She’s a huge ‘Wizard of Oz’ fan,” he added. 

Another Ashland woman brought a multicolored coat from Guatemala given to her by a friend.

“It’s really good, it just didn’t work for me,” said Cathy Mary Rashin.

Kent Noonan shows off an axe he found, and Jewel Featherstone shows the ceramic turkey she picked at the Abundance Swap Sunday. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini

“I like this event, it’s really neat,” she added. 

A woman who only wanted to be known as “Belle” overheard Rashin’s comments from nearby and said, “It’s been missing through these pandemic years, whatever these last years have been.” 

“Belle” was just one of the many attendees. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini

“This is where community comes together and exchanges what they love with other things that other people love,” she said.

“This is kind of the spirit of community, which is kind of giving and taking without any money. … Really, I have so many things to let go of, I wish we did these every weekend,” she said with a laugh.

Golden said the community can anticipate the event will be back next year.

Reach Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at hollyd@ashland.news.

Jeff Golden, who started the Abundance Swap in 2001, explains to more than 300 “traders” how the swap will operate. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
There were offerings of every kind including sporting equipment, tools, paintings, toys and a miniature diving helmet clock. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
When their turn was called, based on the color of their name tag, people walked around the room looking for treasures. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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