Keldrick Wright, PRIDE CO Director, at the Essex County Learning Center (ECLC) in Chatham was searching for a tank. Specifically, he wanted a fish tank for his clients. “I had been looking for a fish tank for my day program work center as aquariums have proven to be therapeutic for some individuals who are on the autism spectrum,” explains Wright. “Besides I personally happen to find them enjoyable and relaxing.”
However, large tanks can be expensive and require equipment, as well. Luckily, Wright is a member of the local Facebook group, Swap/MeetSOMa. The group, which waslaunched by South Orange’s Kristen Tyler and just marked its third anniversary, is an online swap meet for merchandise and services. Often goods are bought and sold; others are exchanged for labor or for given for free.
Wright had been looking at postings for months, he says, “When I stumbled across a posting from Mary Risi who boasted a free 75-gallon aquarium with all the fixings.” Others were interested in the tank, too, but, as Wright recalls, “Mary decided that she was going to give me her tank as she believed in the purpose it would serve in helping those with disabilities. Her husband and children were kind enough to invite me over for a tutorial in how to set up the tank before they dismantled and cleaned it for me. The next day I returned with a few helping hands to transport the tank to its new home.”
Weeks later, new fish are settled into their home on the Chatham campus. “We have over 100 clients who are able to be mesmerized by the tank and the beautiful fish in it each day thanks to the kindness of people in our Maplewood/South Orange community,” says Wright. “It makes me very proud to be part of such a unique community and a resident of Maplewood. Swap/Meet SoMa is somehow this perfect expression of what our community is about. I’ve met many great people and shared many positive experiences through Swap/Meet SoMa. It’s an eclectic subculture that one inevitably falls in love with.”