Arboretum Program Coordinator Jennie Ciborowski sits in the corner of the (RE)Use Store, surrounded by books and mini-fridges

From Rescue to Re-Use

Haverford’s “free store” supports both student needs and the College’s commitment to sustainability.

The (RE)use Store, located in the basement of Comfort Hall and now open to the Haverford community, began as a rescue mission. “The volume of discarded items, and the effort required to dispose of them, was staggering,“ says Franklyn Cantor, assistant chief of staff in the President’s Office, of Haverford students’ annual spring move-out ritual. As leaders in the College’s sustainability efforts, Cantor and Claudia Kent, Arboretum director and assistant director of facilities management, launched a program in 2018 to curb the waste by collecting and donating usable items to a community partner organization, “while keeping a small selection in good condition (mini-fridges, clothes hangers, fans, lamps, and mirrors) for re-use within the student community.” That program, now under the hands-on leadership of Arboretum Program Coordinator Jennie Ciborowski, has evolved into a “free store” for Fords, with a more comprehensive inventory and a year-round calendar for donation and checkout.

Kitchen equipment for students in apartments is in highest demand, according to Ciborowski, along with small appliances like mini-fridges, fans, and lamps, and, amid ongoing COVID-19 concerns, cleaning supplies and disinfectant wipes. Additionally, visitors to the space in Comfort will find a varying inventory of practical offerings like office supplies, toilet paper, power cords and adapters, first-aid supplies, toiletries (always new and sealed), and hangers. And for the “practical” need of mental-health breaks, the store also stocks art supplies, books, and other leisure-oriented items. When they go “shopping,” students select and check out items free of charge. Fridges and microwaves (marked by a green sticker) are returned at the end of the academic year, but everything else, from bed risers to board games, goes to its “forever home” with a Ford.  

After months of work organizing the inventory and developing a system to manage it, Ciborowski is excited to be bringing both service and sustainability to the Haverford community. “I just like the mission behind it,” she says. “I like giving away things to people that need them.” And she likes that the store is about “rethinking waste… The goal is a cycling process. We’ll never eliminate the problem of waste and of things left behind, but if we can make less waste, that would be ideal.”

Student worker Luca Ponticello loves his job in the (RE)use Store for the same reason he loves thrift stores. “It’s cool to see what sort of stuff people donate,” says the Haverford sophomore. “We have a lot of funky things. We’re talking little glass and ceramic knick knacks, handmade paintings, [and] old books, many in different languages.” The best thing, though, “is seeing kids come in and get a bunch of stuff they love for absolutely free. So much would have been thrown out if it weren’t for the store.” 

Last year, under the exceptional circumstances of campus pandemic restrictions, an early version of the store was open by appointment only and focused mainly on serving first-generation and/or low-income and other students of greatest need.The fall semester marks the “grand opening” of the store in its permanent home. The store has been serving early arrivals to campus, including new cohorts of students in the Chesick Scholars Program, since mid-August, and will remain open for general community use. 

In its new iteration, the (RE)use Store is a practical, community-based expression of the College’s sustainability commitment, particularly with respect to what Cantor calls “an emerging zero waste plan.”  In planning and implementation, the President’s Office and Facilities Management worked closely with the Council on Sustainability and Social Responsibility and the student Committee on Environmental Responsibility. “We’re thrilled to be able to re-purpose and re-use more items within our community,” says Cantor. The store “minimizes the number of new items purchased (and the accompanying packaging), decreases costs for our students, and prevents many tons of items from heading to the landfill.” 

The store is stocked by donations, mainly from students and others in the Haverford community, and accepts “wipeable, cleanable” items in good condition. “We don’t accept anything broken,” says Ciborowski. “If you wouldn’t give it to a friend, please don’t give it to the (RE)use store.” Items that are not accepted include soft goods like bedding, medications, and open toiletries. (Open cleaning products are acceptable.) Details about donating, as well as regular hours for student shopping, will be posted at and on Instagram

Text by Kaaren Sorensen. Photos by Holden Blanco ’17.