A recent KinderCycle swap in a capoeira studio on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland

By Izzy ben Izzy

Any parent will tell you how fast their kids grow up. One minute they’re crawling on the floor, the next, leaving for college. Babies, especially, grow out of their clothes and toys faster than their parents can buy new ones, or can afford to. Realizing this, Berkeley mother Jennifer Pesetsky founded KinderCycle, an organization that hosts “swaps” where parents drop off things they’re done with, and pick up the things they need.

Pesetsky said that it was “amazing to me the specificity of stuff that my daughter needed”, referring to her child born in April last year. She grew tired of purchasing new items, and began to shop at used clothing stores, and giving her daughter’s old things to charity. Still, this was a hassle, and she realized that most families wouldn’t bother. Soon she found a simple solution.

Pesetsky said that essentially, families “get rid of stuff they don’t want, and take stuff they do”. Since March of this year, she has hosted a swap each month at different locations in which families do exactly that. They pay an admission fee ranging from $5 to $20, and drop off their old clothes, toys, books, strollers, bathtubs, highchairs, and more, for volunteers to sort and put on tables around the room. A swap will last about two hours, but families can stay as long as they want.

“It’s not an even exchange,” according to Pesetsky, so families can leave with more or fewer items than they entered with. Usually there are about 70 families at each event. Each swap is targeted at a different age group — the one coming up in July is for 0-5 year olds. “The really cool part,” she said, “is that leftovers go to charity.” Some of the organizations that she gives them to are Brighter Beginnings, the Berkeley YMCA, and the SPCA of San Francisco. She noticed that often families will refrain from giving to charity because it is confusing and challenging, as some places will only take certain items, which is also the situation with used stores.

KinderCycle is not a non-profit organization, and sometimes it is hard for her to find volunteers. However, Pesetsky said that her “main job is as a mom,” and this is more on the side. Most of the work she does is getting the word out. “It’s spreading, which is good,” Pesetsky said, because a swap like this isn’t effective if there aren’t enough families. Still, KinderCycle is a work in progress for her: “Every swap I see what worked and what didn’t work.” She plans for the organization to continue growing, and to be able to “make this a full time job, and more home based so I can be there for my daughter”. She envisions approximately 100 families attending each month, and vendors paying her to have a table to promote their product.

There are several other organizations that have swaps such as this one, though not all of them are quite as local. These include Peace Love Swap, and many other swaps hosted by individuals, as well as several online ones. There are also many used clothing stores around Berkeley, which use a similar concept.

Pesetsky said that “people love the concept and tell their friends”, and she hopes for it to get much more publicity. She is open to questions, which can be asked through her website, and recommends that people sign up to receive emails, or check out KinderCycle on Twitter and Facebook.

Oakland parent Beth Gousman has attended KinderCycle swaps. “For me, the most satisfying part is knowing this stuff won’t go to waste,” she said. “I’m very encouraged by the extra effort Jennifer makes to partner with local non-profits who will ensure the items are appreciated by others.  I’ve been so lucky to be on the receiving end of friends and family’s generosity, and I hope to be able to share that with others.”

Izzy ben Izzy is a lifelong and dedicated Berkeley resident, and will be a junior at Berkeley High School in September. She is excited to be interning with Berkeleyside this summer.

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