by: DAVID F. ASHTON - Maizy Baisch looks thrilled, riding the indoor rollercoaster. Many families and their kids flocked to the buildings that once housed the Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School in Woodstock on Saturday, October 12, to check out the new “Southside Swap & Play”.

It’s new in Woodstock, but “it’s not a new idea,” says its new director, Ellen Zientek.

“Actually, this is the second iteration of the ‘Sunnyside Swap and Play’, which was the result of several community projects started by a mom, Karen Hery, dating back to 2006,” Zientek remarks. “We ended up having to move out of that building, so we moved south and started up here in space available at the Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church school building.”

Specifically, Southside Swap and Play is a nonprofit neighborhood organization, wherein families become members, and then can use the indoor space. “They can also swap items with other members, such as kids’ clothing, books, toys, games, and things like that. We also have ‘scheduled time’ in the gymnasium on weekdays – a great thing on windier or rainier days, when parents need a place for kids to run around.”

In this “cooperative community”, member families contribute $25 to $30 a month, on a sliding scale, Zientek says, to cover rent and administrative costs. “And, each family volunteers between 45 and 60 minutes per month on one of our co-op teams, which help with cleaning, toys, clothing.”

Through the years, Zientek says, families have usually brought more items in to “swap” than they take.

“That's why, when we moved to this location, we changed a guideline so that our co-op teams can go through the donations, have some quality control – and make sure that we take only what’s needed – instead of stockpiling more stuff than we could realistically manage.”

Encouraging members to recycle and up-cycle is an underlying philosophy of the organization, Zientek adds. “Our number one goal is ‘building community’ – that’s the most important part. We build community by sharing a play space, and engaging with our neighbors where kids can play and grow together, and where parents can hang out and chat.

“Secondary is sustainability; we also share sustainability initiatives by encouraging people to share, instead of buy.”

The organization is specifically for families with kids, ranging in age from “zero” to 10 years of age. “The 10-year-olds are more interested in the arts and crafts, books, and playing in the gym.”

The new nonprofit is open seven days a week from 8 am to 6 pm at 5239 S.E. Woodstock Boulevard.

To learn more, or to sign up online, visit their website: HYPERLINK ""

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