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Shannon Howe, 2, plays with some of the toys her parents Mandy and Justin have gotten her from FreeCycle, a website where people can post items they would like to give away to their neighbors. (ASHLEY SMITH/Times-News)

While digging up a flower bed to build a playhouse for her son, Laura Jacobson of Buhl thought of FreeCycle to save the plants from being tossed in the trash.

“I didn’t want all the flowers to just be discarded so I posted it to FreeCycle and had five people come and dig up flowers,” Jacobson said in an email.

FreeCycle is a national organization of online message boards where members of communities can connect to get the things they need for free. A Twin Falls-based branch serves the greater Magic Valley, from Rupert to Hagerman, and its members are as happy to give as they are to receive.

“FreeCycle is a community of people who care about the needs of others,” said Vickie Henderson of Twin Falls, in an e-mail. Vickie is a local member of FreeCycle who gave away a stove and received items to decorate her home, all thanks to the site. “I was given several very nice things, and one person even brought me a plant as a housewarming gift.”

FreeCycle has been active in Twin Falls since July 2004 and has approximately 1,700 members. These members post brief descriptions of items they want to get rid of; or they can post an ISO, a request that lets the other members know what the poster is In Search Of.

Recently, items being sought included outdoor toys and swimming pools, a punching bag and scrapbooking items, while a George Foreman grill, baby blankets and a coffee table were up for grabs.

The organizer of the group, Sandy Kiser of Twin Falls, admitted that there are generally more ISO’s than other posts, but she added that most of the ISO’s get answered.

“It’s impossible to fulfill all the need, but often people don’t think about giving things away until they see someone is in need,” Kiser said.

There are other sites that offer similar services, including and The primary difference between FreeCycle and the other classified sites is that on FreeCycle the exchange of money is prohibited. However, the members of the Twin Falls branch argue that the concept of FreeCycle brings something else to the table, a sense of community.

“I feel that the people who participate in FreeCycle become an Internet family,” said Lavon Baird, a FreeCycle member.

For many families with young children, FreeCycle has been a blessing. The service has allowed families to pass down children’s clothes to others and receive new clothes as their children grow.

“Money is tight, and sadly there are families that can’t afford to feed and clothe their children,” Kiser said. “The people that take these items often give them to someone else after their children are older.”

Almost anything can be put up for recycling on FreeCycle, but the national organization has set rules against illegal and inappropriate items, including alcohol, tobacco, firearms, pharmaceuticals and pornography.

Posts about plants and pets are unexpected but not uncommon.

Families that can no longer afford having a pet can post to FreeCycle to find their pet a new home. Others have posted that they desire a pet or animal and are often responded to.

“I have given away two rabbits, several roosters, and found a home for a border collie cross livestock dog that didn’t work out for us,” said Mona Ételu of Buhl. “With dogs or cats, finding homes for them through Freecycle gives a loving pet to those who can’t afford to go to a shelter and pay the adoption fees.”

FreeCyclers want to continue to give back to the community through recycling their used items to people in need.

“A young man came to pick up a washer and dryer that I no longer needed. He had been working three jobs to support his family and could hardly afford to go to the laundry mat,” Kiser said. “He was nearly on his knees with gratitude.”

Eva Stutzman can be reached at or 735-3288.

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