The state of Florida is leasing part of the Centre of Tallahassee Mall, and that means many businesses, like the Sharing Tree, will have to move soon.
The planned re-boot of the Tallahassee Mall continues to sputter; case in point: The Sharing Tree. Inside the Sharing Tree, two kids work on building a castle with recycled materials while another ten play in and around the bounce house in the back.
“It really came out of this mission, this trash to treasure mantra. So, the Sharing Tree became similar to a Goodwill but for art and school supplies.”
That’s Carly Sinaddurai , owner of the Sharing Tree, a nonprofit that has changed shape and location several times over the last eight years. Originally, their focus was on donating recycled materials.
“So we were taking in all this donated material and giving it away free to local teachers. Now, nine years later, almost to the cap of a million dollars.”
Now, still donating to teachers, Sinaddurai has shifted to a focus on child development. The Sharing Tree’s current location in the Centre of Tallahassee has a large focus on its creative play lab, a space where kids are given the tools to create their own fun.
“Deeply inspired by my five year old son—he was learning about everything by touching and tinkering and exploring—we built the creative play lab. There’s a Lego wall, there’s a magnet wall, there’s a little maker’s space in there for kids to explore art materials. There’s not a lot of rules so they get to tinker and it’s very free range for them and they all walk away with big smiles.”
The mall’s lease to the state is forcing most of the businesses inside to relocate. On top of that, a busted air conditioning unit has made the Sharing Tree’s hours dependent on the weather outside and the fans inside. Sinaddurrai’s lease makes her responsible for the thirty thousand dollar fix the unit would require, so she’s forced to make do. The Sharing Tree’s lease at the Centre of Tallahassee ends in November, but Sinaddurai says she doesn’t know where the Sharing Tree is going yet.
“I’m not scared. I think as a creative organization we’ve made a lot of things work with not a lot of means, but it’s really hard to be a non-profit organization with this much uncertainty. From month to month we’re trying to tell our people we’re here. It’s like ‘where’s the Sharing Tree?’
Sinaddurai says she believes in the potential of the Sharing Tree, but without a definitive place to make their fourth move in almost ten years, the nonprofit’s future remains in the air.