Where do you go in Beaver County if you want to buy a back porch, shoes, kitchen utensils or a chicken coop? How about a chicken for the chicken coop?
Oddly enough, there is one place where you can find these things and more: Facebook.
Nicole Alexander said she has seen lots of bizarre, unique and useful items posted on her group's Facebook page, the Beaver County Area Misc. FB Flea Market.
The South Beaver Township resident started the site last year as a way for local people to buy and sell used items directly to other local people.
"I had always wanted to start a consignment store in the area," Alexander said. "But I had no idea what I was getting myself into with this (group). I invited 34 of my friends, and since then it has just gone crazy."
In less than a year, the flea market has grown from that small circle of friends to a bustling marketplace with nearly 2,000 members.
With the help of three other administrators, Leigh Paliwoda, Pammy-Jo Baker and Salli Barbish, the mom of two young children manages the miscellaneous site, as well as an equally popular group dedicated specifically for kids' items.
"I never thought it would be anything like this," Alexander said.
With hundreds of posts and comments each day from flea market members, the site has become a full-time job, though Alexander and the others do not get paid.
Throughout the past year, the group has compiled a list of terms that users are asked to follow. For example, the first person to comment on an item posted for sale has first dibs, and members are not supposed to use the site to promote any for-profit businesses or income-earning opportunities.
"We have just found that over time there needs to be rules, because otherwise there's just complete chaos," Alexander said.
While many people do their shopping online nowadays, the group helps put a face to who is buying and selling, Alexander said. To join the private page, users first are approved by administrators to ensure that they're local and to prevent spam and viruses from targeting the site, Alexander explained.
"We look at every single person's profile to see if there's anything local on there, because we don't want everyone on (the group)," she said.
Nonetheless, Alexander and the other administrators always stress safety when members are meeting or exchanging information.
"We are constantly reminding people, you don't know who's watching," Alexander said. "Even if (members) seem friendly or you get to know them, you don't know anything about them."
Participants also gather publicly at weekly "meets" in various locations throughout the county, where they exchange their posted goods.
At a meet Wednesday in Chippewa Township, several members, the majority of whom are women, said they have formed friendships with some of the other regular buyers and sellers through the site and at meets.
"It's a nice group of women," said Christine Reagan of Beaver. "I've made a lot of friends. A lot of them who have children -- we do play dates now. It's just a nice way to meet people."
The flea market also gives families a way to save, and even make some extra money when buying and selling items, Alexander said.
"I got several messages sent to me last year in private from families who were just so grateful for the site that I created, it almost brought tears to my eyes," Alexander said.
Like Reagan, who recently finished Christmas shopping for her seven children thanks to the group, Nicole DiCerbo has found wonderful things on the site that have saved her family money during the holidays.
"Last year for Christmas, I made a lot of money to put toward Christmas, and then there were so many things that people were selling new that I bought," the Ellwood City resident said. "My kids had an awesome Christmas last year.
"Even if you're not buying things, at least you're making some extra cash and meeting nice women," she said.
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