LA: couple builds greenhouse with donated castoffs

In early December, just as COVID-19 cases were spiraling in Los Angeles, Jennifer Grosso posted a request on her Buy Nothing Facebook group that struck a chord with her neighbors: "If anyone has any old windows or doors they'd like taken off their hands, I'd be happy to come to pick them up! I've currently got about half of what I need for a greenhouse. All conditions welcome, we'll put some love back into anything that needs it. Would rather build from scraps than buy new (pics for reference) TIA!"

After nearly a year of illness, isolation, and loss, Grosso's simple request offered people the opportunity to do something they hadn't in months: meet and make new friends. "People really wanted that sense of connection," she said. "When I met people curbside, I could tell they really wanted to talk."

With so many people turning to declutter to deal with the stress of cabin fever — drop-off centers in Los Angeles were overwhelmed with donations at one point last year — here was someone who was willing to come to pick up building materials that were collecting black widow spiders in the backyard.

After Grosso posted her request on Buy Nothing, a Facebook group where people lend and give away items to their neighbors for free, she spent two weeks traversing the streets of Los Angeles as she collected discards at the curb. She started with doors and windows, but after she posted similar requests on Nextdoor and TikTok, she was offered plants, curtains, a sunshade and lights from people inspired by her DIY project.

The more she traveled, the more the quiet 33-year-old manager of photographers learned about her neighbors and, ultimately, Los Angeles. She nearly drove off the side of the road at dusk in the steep hills of Mount Washington. She sampled Valerie Campbell's homemade ice cream through a window in Glendale when she arrived to collect seeds and seedlings. Back home in Atwater, she carried an Ikea bed frame on her back and repurposed it as a raised bed planter.

The couple sanded all of the window frames by hand and painted them white, with the exception of a few. There was one teal window donated by Buy Nothing Atwater member Tina Van Berckelaer that made Grosso hesitate before painting it over. Unsure what to do, she did what any millennial and social media denizen would do: She asked TikTok.

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