Chilmark PTO hosts clothing swap at West Tisbury School


The Chilmark School PTO’s semi-annual kid’s clothing swap was held this past Saturday in front of the West Tisbury School. As families streamed past on their way to soccer practice behind the school, some children and their parents stopped to peruse the offerings, and others dropped off gently used clothes.

Nancy Leport of Aquinnah, who organized the day’s swap, presided over a long stretch of brown tarp on the grass in front of the school, and kept clothes neatly folded in the sun and wind, sorted by size. Meanwhile, her daughter, Menasha, a student at the Chilmark School, enjoyed the free shopping with some friends.

The swap originated in the spring of 2009, when the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act took effect. The legislation was designed to protect children from lead and other potentially harmful chemicals, and demanded third-party testing of all children’s products sold. The law had the unfortunate side effect of causing thrift shops and consignment shops to stop selling children’s clothes.

“Thrift shops couldn’t take any kids’ stuff with snaps or zippers, or any paint or decoration,” Ms. Leport said.

As a result, parents were faced with the prospect of throwing out clothes unless they had someone in particular to pass them on to.

The interpretation of the legislation has shifted in the past few years, and some children’s products have returned to thrift shops and consignment shops, but the Chilmark PTO’s clothing swap still fills a niche in the Island’s array of free shopping for kids. The dumptique, at the West Tisbury dump, has some children’s clothes, and the Family Center at the regional high school usually has a good selection of baby and toddler clothes, but the PTO swap focuses mostly on clothing for school-age kids, with a smattering of items in smaller sizes.

“We did have one at the Community Center in Chilmark, but it wasn’t so well attended,” Ms. Leport said. “We tried it here at soccer and it worked really well because a bunch of people were here.

Signs on County Road also helped lure swappers. “I saw the clothing swap sign so I stopped to check it out,” Jamie O’Gorman of West Tisbury said. “I would have brought stuff, but I just saw it driving by.”

By 11 am, the tarps were picked over, but there were still some good clothes left. Later on, more clothes were dropped off, and Ms. Leport went over to the baseball practice to tell parents there to come have a look. “We got rid of a lot of stuff,” says Ms. Leport. “I’m happy.”

Another swap is planned for the fall, on a to-be-decided Saturday during soccer season.