Jenn Ja Birchim and her husband were sitting around their living room last year. trying not to get caught up in the consumerism of the holiday season. “Our kids have so much stuff, they don’t even know what they have,” Ja Birchim said.

Ja Birchim and her husband have always been conscientious consumers, buying the majority of their children’s holiday gifts at thrift stores. (Like many families, they know that new and expensive gifts will come from the grandparents.) However, Ja Birchim strongly feels that “my children’s ecological footprint is dependent on what my husband and I do.”

With that knowledge in mind, the Kids Stuff Exchange was born, sponsored by Loa Tree – a business foundation the Ja Birchims started with their friends David Fortson and Terra Basche.

Now it’s that time of year again, and the second-ever Kids Stuff Exchange is this Saturday, November 22, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Rancho Embarcadero Community Center, which is located at 224 Vereda Leyenda in Goleta.

In order to maintain the element of surprise, parents and only parents are asked to come to the event with lightly used: toys, clothes, and books that are lying around their home. So they can give and take freely, finding holiday treasures for their kids among others people’s trash. Ja Birchim mentioned that there is a park next to the community center that kids can play at while parents participate in the exchange.

In light of very recent events, all families that were victims of the Tea Fire are invited. “They don’t have to bring anything and can come and take whatever they need,” Ja Birchim explained.

At the end of the day, anything that hasn’t been taken will be collected by Family Fuel, a foster family organization that frequently must move kids from their homes with only the clothes there are wearing. There are 35 foster families in Santa Barbara and they have also been invited to stop by to collect items for their foster kids.

Last year the exchange was held in December, “but the buying frenzy had already begun,” Ja Birchim explained. However, the turnout was still good and Ja Birchim did not have to spend a cent on her kids’ gifts. This year, they decided to host it before the big Thanksgiving shopping weekend. With people being more conscious of the economy, the response has been great, she said. “They’ve spread the word through friends, on Craigslist, and at various nursery schools.”

Recycle the clothes and toys your kids no longer use this Saturday. RSVP to Jenn ja Birchim at (805) 729-2524.


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