Costa Mesa Buy Nothing group reaps rewards for members beyond great ‘gifts’

A woman on a bicycle holds a plant while talking to another woman.
Christine Bliss hands a gifted plant to fellow member and plant lover, Lisa Chavera, as part of the Buy Nothing Costa Mesa group.
(Susan Hoffman / Times Community News)

A Facebook group called Buy Nothing Costa Mesa instantly grabbed Marian Wildman’s attention. She liked what she saw and decided to join the group.

The transactions are carried out between members in the form of a post on the group’s Facebook page where they can both request and offer items to gift.

“After living in the same house in Costa Mesa for 52 years I’m trying to declutter,” Wildman said. “I’ve given away a lot of good things [through the Buy Nothing group] to people who really need them.”


Among her giveaways are a vintage American clock, mirrors, a juicer, stuffed animals, a range hood and a Shark electric floor mop that 65 people wanted, forcing her to do a drawing to determine the winner.

Wildman explained that some of the more popular items offered at no charge on the site can attract as many as 100 people.

A woman sorts through items on a chair.
Buy Nothing Costa Mesa member Christine Bliss sorts through items for giving. The two glass tables were among her finds from the group.
(Susan Hoffman / Times Community News)

Keeping within social distancing protocol during these pandemic times and trying to avoid thefts from porch pirates, Wildman typically puts her gifts on the front step just before the person is set to arrive.

Wildman, who prefers giving rather than receiving, found herself doing the requesting during the pandemic when grocery store shelves were cleaned out.

“I asked for Minute Rice and got a notice from one member who had an extra box and was happy to bring to me,” said Wildman, who is housebound.


“Another time I was looking for Pam cooking spray and someone got in touch with me and offered to look for it. She went to two stores looking for it. When I told her, ‘I wish you hadn’t done that,’ she said, ‘I’m more than happy to do it.’ And that’s what this group is all about.”

Brooklynn Kendall and Brandice Strotman share administration duties for the 2,824-member Buy Nothing Costa Mesa group, which began in 2015 with 800 members.

“It’s a lot of work with 15 to 20 requests a day to join, but worth it to see how the community is thriving,” said Kendall, who was recruited to become an administrator in 2019 by the previous administrator.

Two woman stand next to each other.
Buy Nothing Costa Mesa’s Brandice Strotman, left, and Brooklynn Kendall share administrative responsibilities of the group.
(Photo by Susan Hoffman)

The volunteer administrative job consists of making sure everyone follows the buy nothing, give freely rules established by the central hub of Buy Nothing Project, such as ensuring that there is no exchange of money and the giving takes place in the community where you live.

With 4 million community members, the project has become a worldwide network of gift economies in which real-life neighbors come together through sharing with a common goal of creating a positive environmental effect.

“It’s a great neighborhood group, generally everyone gets along and takes care of one another,” said Strotman, who is an active user. “I’ve pretty much redecorated my whole downstairs from that site and that’s stuff that didn’t go to landfills.”

Kendall agrees it’s a great way to offer something for someone to use verses throwing in the trash.

“The group really is a community of friendships; I met neighbors otherwise I wouldn’t have met,” Kendall said. “It’s such a dynamic group of personalities from different backgrounds.”

Christine Bliss, a gardening enthusiast with a green thumb, said she joined the group so she could give away her plants, many of which went to a woman who rode her bike whenever she came to pick up plants.

“But when a coffee press popped up [as a giveaway on the site], I asked the giver who happened to be the bike rider, if she could wait until my husband got home with the car, since mine was out of commission,” Bliss said. “She lives down the street and ended up riding her bike over with the press.”

Members don’t think twice about delivering items, even when it takes them out of town. Elisa Piazza wanted the fully electric hospital bed that had been gifted for her 81-year-old friend, who lived in a board-and-care home. The only problem was that she would need help transporting it from Balboa Island to Mission Viejo.

Fellow member Tho Tran Trefz responded to Piazza’s post asking for someone with a truck: “I have a truck and I can help you with delivery.”

A combined group effort then came into play, with the offer of the loan of a ramp for the heavy bed. Then two men who are members of the group volunteered to help load it.

Piazza, who moved from Italy to Costa Mesa 31 years ago, had been looking out for her friend who was also from Italy and was alone and in declining health.

“Tho is so super sweet to offer help and pay it forward,” Piazza said. ”I’m a believer that it comes back to you even if you don’t expect it.”

Tran Trefz was equally moved by Piazza’s generosity. “I have seen a lot in the Costa Mesa group,” she said. “They helped a homeless person get everything he asked for to help furnish a home, then gave him a bike so he could get a job, get back on his feet.”

Hoffman is a contributor to Times Community News.