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Generosity is the key for a new European import

Marketplace Contributor Aug 8, 2012

Generosity is the key for a new European import

Marketplace Contributor Aug 8, 2012

Jeff Horwich: This next story is about a new European import to North America. It’s both a good and a service, in a way — something called a “give box.” These phone booth-size cabinets have appeared on street corners in Berlin, Vienna, and other cities. You leave stuff you don’t want in the “give box;” other take it. Now for the first time, there’s one on this side of the Atlantic, in Canada.

From Montreal, here’s reporter Judith Ritter.

Judith Ritter: These regulars here at the Givebox tell me they just can’t believe their luck.

Person 1: I found many things from a television to a pair of sox, perfumes  books, vinyls.

Person 2: Yesterday I was perusing the givebox and someone left a giant pen.

Ismail Ulvik: I found myself a nice hat. Its just a beautiful old hat made in Canada, a black velvet hat with a nice plume, a feather. I love it.

About a month ago, this tall wood cabinet turned up next to a grocery store in the Mile End neighborhood of Montreal. Mile End’s like Brooklyn, but in French and on permafrost. A sign on the cabinet said “Givebox,” and it invited people to exchange things.

But Frederick Nissen — the one who brought the Givebox idea from Europe to Montreal — says there’s more to it.

Frederick Nissen: Bring something special for you. In fact, bring something a bit artistic that you did by yourself then the exchange brings another level.

And it’s that other level that intrigues Ismail Ulvik. He’s the fellow who found the feathered hat.

Ulvik: It’s really about the beauty of leaving something to the world, passing on these physical things to people who need them or wants to create with them, or use them.

And there are stories left in there too. In a guest book. Someone says his mom wants him to read more so please leave him a Norweigan novel. Someone else writes she has no object to leave so she’ll a cooking tip. And someone else says “the Givebox smells like feet.” The box itself has become a neighborhood personality. Parisian Jimmy Gravlet works nearby.

Jimmy Gravlet: When the box came, first it was just a wooden box, a piece of wood. But the more you open the doors, the more you open the box, the more you want to open the box. It’s like an addiction. It’s like falling in love.

Ah, so French.

I’m Judith Ritter for Marketplace.

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