Rhode Island’s ‘Buy Nothing Day’ stands in contrast to Black Friday

The largest distribution site will be on the Statehouse lawn.
Shutterstock / ARENA Creative
The largest distribution site will be on the Statehouse lawn.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — While shoppers head to the mall for Black Friday, people in need will pick up winter coats at sites throughout the state for what has become a holiday ritual in Rhode Island: Buy Nothing Day.

The new organizers of the annual coat exchange are adding something special to the racks this year at the largest distribution site, the Statehouse lawn: purses.

Pam Testoni and her daughter, Lauren, took over from longtime organizer Greg Gerritt for the 21st annual event.


Both had volunteered at the exchange for years. Pam Testoni met many women who were looking for coats for job interviews. That gave her the idea of asking her friends for purse donations this year so women could complete their outer outfits. The purses will have toiletry items inside.

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They’re doing a trial run at the Statehouse lawn this year. If all goes well, they'd like to ask the other sites if they'd collect and distribute purses next year. They’re also adding mirrors at the Statehouse lawn because people have had trouble choosing a coat in the past without knowing what they look like in it.

The rest of the event remains the same. People will take time on Black Friday to donate a warm coat or pick one up for free. The organizers have been asking this year for donations of larger coats and children’s sizes especially.

The goal is to provide warm coats to those who need them and highlight the negative effects of consumerism on Black Friday, traditionally the year’s busiest shopping day.

‘‘It’s a day to realize how much we consume and how much we have and how much other people are in need.’’ Pam Testoni said. ‘‘To me, it’s a far better way to spend my day than fighting the crowds and trying to get that sale.’’