Woodbine seeks to build autonomy, community, resilience
By Jessica Meditz
Neighbors of Ridgewood and its surrounding areas arrived on Woodward Avenue last Saturday for an afternoon of giving back, taking what’s needed and engaging with the community.
Woodbine, a local organization powered by volunteers, identifies itself as an “anti-capitalist hub in Ridgewood, experimenting with free cultural programming to build autonomy, community and resilience.”
Staying true to its mission, the group held a Free Store pop-up in their space located at 585 Woodward Avenue, in which folks could donate items they no longer needed, but were too good to throw away.
The pop-up attracted a countless number of people, and many donated their gently used clothing, kitchenware, tools, electronics, books and toys for others to take home.
“Activities at Woodbine are meant to help us become autonomous from the state and from capitalist markets, which we see as oppressive systems that prioritize profit over people’s well-being. We can only become autonomous from these systems by taking care of each other and organizing ourselves collectively and cooperatively,” said Ella Fassler, an organizer at Woodbine.
“Free stores encourage us to pool our resources together to try to build resilience and to meet each other’s wants and needs. They are meant to encourage people to reimagine other possibilities for organizing the economy and social life,” she continued. “What currently exists is one way to organize a society of many, and it disproportionately benefits the wealthiest and whitest people. We envision a world where everything could be free and built on voluntary exchange of labor, resources and knowledge.”
The Woodbine collective says that their model of a pop-up free store model builds community in a novel way, since the opportunity invites participants to come together on a given day and interact with one another.
In addition, the Free Store offered various services and skill-sharing opportunities, including clothing repair and alterations, bicycle repairs and tune-ups and weight training tips.
Events of this nature have proven to be successful for Woodbine, as shown by their twice-weekly food pantry that’s been active since March of 2020.
“We run a free community refrigerator, we organize yearly seed exchanges right before spring planting season and in the past we’ve done a number of clothing swaps,” Fassler said.
“But this was the first event of this scale we’ve tried, in part inspired by our partners at the Fenix Taxi Stand and Bushwick Ayuda Mutua who have been doing a lot of free distribution events of clothes and essential goods the last two years.”
In addition, Woodbine runs fitness training sessions at their gym, organizes several soccer teams, holds Sunday dinners, arts and figuring drawing workshops, a weekly screening series, sewing workshops, poetry readings, a weekly research seminar and discussion group and kids workshops. All programs are free or by donation.
The group hopes to have another Free Store event in November to continue to engage the community.
For more information about getting involved with Woodbine, send an email to [email protected] or write to them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.