Sasha JaegerBaird runs numerous online swap n' shops
Sasha JaegerBaird, 50, was diagnosed with Stage 4
non-Hodgkin lymphoma eight years ago and was told by three different doctors that she had eight months to live. Unwilling to give up, she endured five surgeries, lost her hair twice, and in the meantime, turned to Facebook and started numerous Everything Free Swap n' Shop groups.
First starting in Crowsnest Pass, she now has created 18 everything free groups and over 30 buy and sell groups across Canada.
"They [doctors] basically said get your affairs in order, spend time with your family, and I was not about to take that as their final answer," says JaegerBaird. As a mother of four, two still in school at the time, JaegerBaird says she was determined to see her kids graduate and get married.
She then had to quit her job at Alberta Forestry and underwent five surgeries that removed several huge tumors from her intestines and bone marrow. She did three rounds of treatment over the span of five and a half years, which she spent the majority of at home, since she was not able to work.
She explained that during the last year of treatment, she started to regain her strength and felt more able to do things again. However, still unable to work in a regular job due to cancer related issues — fatigue, pain, and sickness — she then turned to Facebook for something to pass the time.
Now living off a disability income, JaegerBaird has continued for the past three years living off making people happy.
Sarah Brodie, a recently married mother of two, a one and three year old, says she had fallen on hard times during this past Christmas and turned to JaegerBaird's Calgary group for help. She asked for help with gifts to her kids and received numerous responses. Things such as books, movies, stuffed animals, and even filled stockings for both children were given, all for free. "It was the first year my son was old enough to be excited for Santa to come, and all the amazing 'Santa's' on this page brought us to tears. Good tears."
The rapidly growing Swap n' Shop groups on Facebook allow users in the specified city or town area to post items online that they wish to sell or give away for free. "You can take a picture on your phone and post it right away and you're done," says JaegerBaird. "It's such a good way of getting rid of stuff rather than having a garage sale."
The only difference between the buy and sell groups and the everything free is the price. You can post any item that you wish to get rid of, ranging from coupons to a car, and it's picked up for free in your preferred location within a couple hours or days. Users on these groups can even post what they are in search of and someone will reply with an item for them.
"I love it, it's like a labour of love for me," says JaegerBaird. She describes this as a full time job for her since she spends around four to eight hours a day online monitoring her groups.
The list ranges across Canada including major cities like Vancouver and Winnipeg and even smaller towns like Pincher Creek and Fort McMurray.
JaegerBaird says that she has also been asked to create groups on the East coast as well.
The idea of making a free group came to JaegerBaird after being a frequent user of the buy and sell groups for a while and she noticed a lot of the items for free were getting lost within the items for sale. So, she took the initiative to help others by making a free group herself and says it really just grew from there.
"I wish I was getting paid for this," she chuckles and says that these groups are very rewarding, however she wouldn't mind a monetary reward as well.
For each new group JaegerBaird creates, she says she must start the group, post all the rules, design the banner and then join the other local groups in the area.
Most major cities have various buy and sell groups catering to minority options such as teenage boys, single moms and plus-sized women. Once JaegerBaird has been approved to join those groups, she then advertises her own page for the area and the customers come flowing in.
JaegerBaird waits until there are around 500 members and then she puts up an ad for co-adminsand hires them to help her run the page. To keep up with her outstanding reputation of running these groups, she hosts a three-day training course for each new co-admin and teaches them all her rules and regulations.
She has also created groups for the
co-admins to communicate and interact with each other. Many of the co-admins have met up and have become acquainted thanks to JaegerBaird.
On the Calgary page on March 9th, someone made a post asking for a stroller. Within an hour, another user replied with a pink fully equipped stroller for free and asked for it to be picked up in Forest Lawn, conveniently located near the asker.
Even items such as food are up for grabs. A recent post, also on the Calgary page was giving away a 36-pack box of Ramen. Again, within hours people were fighting for the opportunity to get something for free.
These exploding Swap n' Shop groups are like online shopping on drugs. You can ask and receive almost instantaneously. It's obvious why Calgarian's and Facebook users all across Canada are so obsessed.
Gwen Challenger, a stay-at-home mom has been a co-admin of JaegerBaird's Calgary's Everything FREE Swap n' Shop group for three months and loves it. "I really enjoy being able to give things that I don't need any more or that somebody else needed. Knowing that they'd really be able to use it and they wouldn't be able to buy those things brand new."
Challenger has also had her share of the benefits of these groups. After recently moving to Calgary from Ontario and staying home with her daughter, she was short on money and was able to sell old baby clothes and a highchair on the buy and sell groups for extra cash.
Just last week, Challenger asked on one of the free groups if anyone had passes for the Calgary Zoo. She ended up getting numerous responses and was able to take her daughter for half price.
Challenger says that she appreciates the groups mostly because they are very useful to people in financial trouble or are starting over, saying that she knows how that feels after recently moving.
Being able to sell or swap things that her daughter has outgrown for things her daughter now needs, Challenger says that without these groups, raising her daughter would be a lot more difficult.
The only evidence of negativity on JaegerBaird's groups is the users that miss out on items and resort to calling others names. In response to those comments, JaegerBaird says she doesn't let it bother her as "some people just have no control of their verbal diarrhea," and that the positive clearly outweighs the negative.
It is obvious despite the negativity that these groups have re-inspired the gift of giving for many. One example of the positive message being spread is a post from back in February when a user posted a wedding dress on Calgary's free group.
Joanna Hamilton, a frequent user says that the fact a woman would give up such a cherished item to a less fortunate woman was "the most beautiful gesture, it totally restored my faith in humanity."
Many customers have said using these groups are much easier than searching for items on Kijiji or other similar websites. One argued that they no longer use thrift shops because they are a robbery — saying that you assume your item is going to someone less fortunate with a good deal, but often it's priced at more than what they spent originally.
JaegerBaird says that users have thanked her on a regular basis. Some have even thanked her for reducing their trips to the dump saying that their garbage's haven't been full once since they started using her groups.
"I've seen a lot of wonderful people do a lot of help for others on there." JaegerBaird says that despite all the hard work of managing these groups, she will continue doing it for as long as she can, even if she is able to work again in the future.
After years of battling cancer and losing her job, she says she is very thankful for her admins and customers. "It has been a really unique way to meet friends and really develop some cherished friendships."
- By COURTNEY INGRAM