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For the Rejects Of Christmas, A 2nd Chance

Dulles Town Center Offers Gift Swap

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 29, 2004; Page B01

Kent Manley keeps a wish list on amazon.com of 177 books he'd like to have. Of the four books his mother gave him for Christmas, none was on it.

So yesterday, he brought three of them to Dulles Town Center's first-ever gift swap, where unwanted Christmas presents are being accepted this week -- no questions asked, no receipt required -- provided they are new and worth at least $10.

Kent and Rene Manley look through items left by other participants in the gift swap. He ended up taking three $10 gift certificates in exchange for three books. (Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)

The books -- Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack," a collection of prayers and reflections called "God Bless America" and an encyclopedia of quotations -- were added to a collection of discarded items displayed on tables near the Hecht's department store. Then Manley perused the gifts others had left behind, looking for things he might like instead.

That's how it works: Leave one, take one.

He could have chosen the box of four-ounce Mason jelly jars, the 2005 Dave Barry calendar, the Isotoner gloves or the royal blue fuzzy slippers. He and his wife, Rene, glanced at several jewelry boxes with $12.99 price tags still affixed. In one sat a large swirl broach studded with shiny cubic zirconium stones and plated, according to the label, in rhodium.

They passed up those treasures, accepting instead the mall's offer of three $10 gift certificates for Kent's books.

Allison Fischer-Stasiowski, marketing manager for the Sterling mall, said there is method in the magnanimity. The hope is that people will do some shopping while dropping off unwanted gifts -- and many were toting what seemed to be fresh shopping bags. At the end of the week, unclaimed items will be donated to Loudoun's Community Holiday Coalition, a project run by Loudoun County's Social Services Department for needy families.

"That's the most important part to us here at Dulles Town Center -- to give back to the community," she said.

The swap, which started Sunday, will continue from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. today and tomorrow. Besides unloading unwanted gifts and perhaps acquiring substitutes, participants are entered in a raffle for two tickets on Independence Air or a night at the Lansdowne Resort. The mall also set up plates of cookies for children.

Enticed by the mall's offer, advertised on the radio, would-be swappers came from all over the area yesterday. Many said they were thankful for the opportunity to leave gifts behind that they otherwise would have crammed in closets or taken, guiltily, out to the trash.

Ruth Shapiro of Springfield dropped off a pale green iron that a friend had given her. She said she hated to give it up, a perfectly good iron and all, but she has two at home. In its place, she took a gift certificate.

"I hardly ever iron anyway because everything is wrinkle-free these days," she said.

Terri Davis, who teaches preschool in Loudoun, exchanged a box of art deco mugs given to her by a student. They were nice, too, she said, but her family has enough mugs. She, too, took a gift certificate.

Many who were returning items yesterday preferred anonymity, rather than acknowledge publicly that gifts given by friends and family were not what they wanted.

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