One post. That’s all it takes for Perpetual Bargain Fair – a local, private Facebook group – to change the lives of several families displaced by the recent Soberanes Fire.
When Jen Shipley, an administrator and moderator of the page, added a post with a list of things needed by the families, the 11,200-plus-member group sprang into action with more than 100 offerings – things like dishware and furniture items – in less than 24 hours.
It was not the first time the Facebook group joined forces for the greater good.
In October 2015, Monterey resident Jessica Preciado’s car was stolen.
The vehicle had Georgia plates and only a few identifiable stickers, making it difficult for police to do anything except go by a description.
After a posting was made about the car on Perpetual Bargain Fair, members got to work, with individuals commenting when and where they were seeing the car in the area, such as on the highway near Sand City.
Towards the end of the day, member Callie Slama posted on the page that she found the stolen car parked outside Panera Bread in Sand City.
She contacted the police, and waited with her family to make sure it was not going anywhere.
The car was returned that day.
Slama was a hero, but she feels the collective effort of the members of the page was the real reason for the car being found so quickly.
“It just shows what good can come from social media, especially when there is a lot of negativity that surrounds social media these days,” Slama says. “It’s groups like this that come together and help each other out without even knowing the people that proves there is still good in the world, and good in social media.”
Fire relief, stolen car detectives – it’s all in a day’s work for Perpetual Bargain Fair, but that’s not all the group is about.
Having only been a member since May, I didn’t know the sense of camaraderie the group shared until I posted a request for stories on its page.
Fifty-four comments and 76 “likes” later, members from all over the Peninsula shared stories and positive experiences of the group.
“It just shows what good can come from social media.”
They ranged from helping pay for makeup, dresses and hair styling to send young girls to prom to sending valentines to a man serving in the military whose mother is a member of the group.
They help find lost dogs, offer food advice, identify spiders and donate to help members of the community in need during the holiday season.
Shipley took over the member page in February 2012, when it included between 200 and 300 participants. She’s seen it grow dramatically.
“I wanted it to be a place for people to reach out and ask questions, or just get to know each other throughout the different cities, because I think people are really separated geographically and socio-economically,” she says. “It’s nice for everyone to get to know their neighbors, and to help each other out and just have that safety net.”
Though the group does have an impressive resume when it comes to community outreach, it is still primarily used to sell and buy used items.
Shipley – along with fellow admins Maria Del Rosario Macias, Megan Soliz Ihnot, Taryn Reardon and 15 to 20 moderators – helps in her free time to keep the group safe and functional.
That might mean sifting through an average of 200 requests per day to join the group, or ensuring nothing illegal or offensive is posted.
Shipley says the admins and moderators try to stay out of member interactions when possible, but are available when needed for answering questions.
“Facilitating makes this group better than Craigslist, because it is not something Craigslist offers,” Shipley says.
After my request to join the group was accepted, I was amazed by the number of things for sale and the diversity of posts on the page.
Everything thing from used bras to used toilets is sold on the page. There are also help-wanted postings, reviews of businesses and links to change.org petitions.
One local dad even used the page to ask if someone could put cornrows in his son’s hair before the first day of school.
“I consider it like a virtual garage sale,” Shipley says.
“You have people selling used items, re-gifting, local businesses advertising their services, people selling handmade goods,” she says. “There really is a wide array of things that people use it for.”
But no matter how one ultimately uses the page, it’s means of connecting with strangers, and when it’s needed, offering them help.
Like Shipley said in her Soberanes Fire relief post: “This is [Perpetual Bargain Fair] in action… this is what we do best.”