An art teacher gathered scores of bright orange pipe cleaners and other supplies for his students.

Nearby, a woman considered a coffee machine, getting a primer on how it works.

A family of newly arrived immigrants from Honduras found a trove of cold weather gear in time for their first Minnesota winter.

It was the first Circulation Day at Unity Minneapolis in Golden Valley, and everything was free for the taking.

In keeping with the growing popularity of "buy-nothing" groups, clothing swaps and "free stores," members of the Golden Valley church donated items they no longer wanted or needed to the Sept. 5 event, inviting their community to "shop" the tables and take home anything they would like at no charge. Items that didn't get snapped up during the day were donated to area nonprofits such as St. Vincent de Paul and PRISM.

Church leaders now plan to turn the event into an annual Labor Day tradition. It's called Circulation Day because this kind of decluttering with a purpose — which can be a joy both for the giver and the receiver — is linked to one of the church's core beliefs, called the Law of Circulation, organizers said.

"As I let go, something new is able to move into its place," explained the Rev. Toni Fish, an associate minister at the church. "The universe works in a process of giving and receiving of creating. When we create, we give out, and in order to continue to give out we also have to release that which no longer works, that which no longer is effective."

The Unity denomination, started in the 19th century by a Missouri couple named Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, emphasizes a "positive" and "practical" approach to Christianity.

When she moved to Minnesota from Maryland, Fish brought with her the idea to host a Circulation Day. While at a glance it might look like a run-of-the-mill church rummage sale, with tables piled with donated items, it has a very different aim, she said.

"It's not a fundraiser. This is a service," said Fish. "This is a way of serving community — to give and to open up and recognize that there are needs in our community.

"After we were able to get out and be in the world again, after COVID, it seemed like an appropriate thing to do," she said. "Bring things in that are no longer needed, that no longer served, but that are useful, and release them back out into the community, because we felt like there were people who would need them."

The church's women's group began to collect items during the summer, organizing them and storing them — and eventually filling three entire rooms with donations.

"We'd never done anything on this scale before, and we didn't quite know what to expect," said group member Mary Burns-Klinger. They were delighted to see the donations of high-quality goods — from unused sheets still in the package to complete sets of dishes and winter coats in excellent condition — pour in from the congregation.

"People just went through their closets and their houses and said, 'I'm not using this. Somebody else could use this,'" said Burns-Klinger, who ended up clearing out some of her jewelry collection.

On Circulation Day, Fish and the volunteers set up tables full of donations inside and out on the church's patio. They loved watching and helping everyone who visited find what they needed — as children selected stuffed animals, college students renting a home for the first time found all of the supplies they needed and families found clothes and household essentials.

About 60% of what was donated went home with someone new that day, and church members then worked to bring what was left to area nonprofits, Fish said.

"It was just a joy to be in that space and to enjoy watching things go to a home and be reused again, or in some cases repurposed," Fish said. "It was a fun day and it was very, very satisfying."