Sara Ashton, the main administrator for the Buy Nothing Project Group of Shelby Township, was lucky enough to get a piano through the group.

Sara Ashton, the main administrator for the Buy Nothing Project Group of Shelby Township, was lucky enough to get a piano through the group.

Photo provided by Sara Ashton

‘Buy Nothing’ with the help of neighbors

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published October 5, 2020


SHELBY TOWNSHIP — There’s a saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Literally, that can be the case if you’re part of the local community group called the “Buy Nothing Project Group of Shelby Township.”

The Buy Nothing Project Group of Shelby Township is a group on Facebook for neighbors who reside north of Hall Road to 26 Mile Road and between Dequindre and Hayes roads, with the exception of the city of Utica. The group offers people a way to give and receive, share, lend, and express gratitude at no cost.

The Buy Nothing Project Group of Shelby Township was started a few years ago without much success; however, in January 2019, the group was restarted and is now growing.

Sara Ashton, the main administrator for the group, said that when the group started back up, she heard about it and decided she wanted to be a part of it.

“Myself and the other admin, Fran-Marie Silveri, were taking part in a January Without a Purchase Challenge in January 2019, and during our challenge, we heard about the Buy Nothing Project, a global project bringing neighbors together,” she said.

She said that, in the beginning, the group decided to let everyone interested join in hopes to influence members to create their own groups where they lived.

“In the early days of Shelby popping up, I allowed members from outside the community to join in hopes that they would love it so much that they would start their own group — and they did. There are now groups in Macomb, Sterling Heights and Rochester, and all the admins started with Shelby. I’m so excited and proud of what BNP has to offer,” she said

She said the group is not like many swap groups out there that people would normally use to get rid of items.

“The BNP is so unique, and it is not like your average swap group that you are likely part of. You do not sell, buy or even barter your items on Facebook. You gift items you no longer need or ask for items that you would normally buy. You can also borrow items or even ask for services. Members give and receive from within their own wealth,” said Ashton.

Ashton said that the gift or item being given away or shared can be things from books to furniture and more. However, to keep everyone safe and to follow the rules, some items are not allowed.

Ashton said she has received many wonderful items from the group.

“Personally, I have received so many awesome gifts — most I would have never thought of using the BNP group for. I have received a beautiful piano, books, learning tools for my young son. I moved a few months after the group started, so it was a wonderful way to pass along some of my things and, once I was settled in my new home, a great way to replenish once I figured out what items we needed,” she said.

She said she has seen so much connection come from the group.

“Over the last 20 months, the stories of friendship and neighborly love have been amazing, some bringing tears to my eyes,” she said.

With the outbreak of the coronavirus, many people are struggling to make ends meet and to connect with others, but the group has brought neighbors together.

“I have seen the members of this group jump in … to make sure their neighbors do not go without, whether it is food, clothes, books or furnishings for a new home. Even offering to buy food, school supplies, clothes or diapers when another member has asked for something, because they have a few days until their next paycheck or a member’s car was broken into and they needed items replaced in order to go to work. This group never ceases to amaze me,” she said.

Stephanie Howay, of Shelby Township, who is a member of the group, said she has had many positive experiences since she first joined.

“One of my first transactions was with a fellow Shelbian who is the mom of a son with special needs. I posted a couple of pillows for a ‘give.’ I seriously thought nothing of it — I needed the pillows out of my house and was happy that someone was coming to get them,” said Howay.

She said a few days after the woman picked up the pillows, the woman shared a gratitude post with a picture of her son using the pillows at an event to educate others about people with special needs.

“Her post so touched my heart — though I don’t remember the specifics of her post, I do remember how awesome I felt knowing how much a simple act of kindness impacted both her and her son. More than a year later, I still think of her when I have things to give that I think that her son will like, and she always goes out of her way to show her gratitude,” said Howay.

One of Howay’s transactions took place this summer when she, her husband and her daughter tried to take after-dinner walks through the neighborhood.

“One night, we happened upon a cache of items that had been put out by the curb. Not being the kind of person that likes to see anything usable end up in a landfill, we walked home, got the truck, drove back and loaded up. Amongst these curb treasures was a child’s toy lawn mower. The day after I picked up said lawn mower, one of the members posted an ‘ask’ looking for one. The beauty of the situation is that this same member had come to my rescue by letting me borrow a blower/fan … you use when you get water in your basement just the week before,” she said.

She said a group like this one is just what the world needs during a time like this.

“In a year that has so divided people and pitted us against one another, this group truly has kept my faith going that, at our core, we just want to help each other,” said Howay.

To learn more or join the group, visit