You can find just about anything for free these days by joining your neighborhood’s Buy Nothing group on Facebook, where neighbors go to swap, give away or even request things — from HDMI cables to pasta sauce — that might otherwise go to waste.
One Brooklyn man found a fiancée.
Lance Vining, 46, of Fort Greene, was struggling with how to propose to Marta Cabral, 45, his partner of three years, when his 7-year-old son suggested an idea.
Instead of getting on one knee, Vining would get online and pop the question on the popular page Cabral checks daily for free kids’ clothes, furniture and supplies for their adopted cat.
Vining uploaded a picture of the engagement ring he planned on using on Aug. 15, using the preferred Buy Nothing lingo.
“To give,” Vining, a creative director for an ad agency, wrote to the 7,000 members, “one engagement ring, to someone who will be looking at this group at some point this evening try[ing] to find something for our kids or more likely giving something away.”
He went on to praise Cabral as someone who “only takes as much as she needs” and called her “an incredible mother to our boys,” before wrapping up his pitch with the all-important words.
“Please answer this post with a ‘yes’ if you accept this proposal.”
As per group rules, Vining wrote that he’d let the post “simmer” before picking a winner.
Cabral saw the post an hour later while the two were sitting at a Tiki bar in the neighborhood. She reread it a few times before she understood what was happening, finally commenting: “Interested, please!”
“My first reaction was, ‘You’re crazy and I love it,’ ” she told The Post.
While the post simmered, commenters had plenty of fun.
“If she doesn’t answer, you have to pick one of us,” one joked.
The Buy Nothing Project started in 2013 with a single group in Washington state and now has almost 7,000 communities in 44 countries. The groups surged in popularity during the height of the pandemic, when stores suddenly closed and money became tight for many.
That’s when Vining and Cabral first discovered the group, creating a Sunday night ritual of going on walks to drop off or pick up items.
The couple outfitted their Fort Greene apartment with furniture from the group, found a new home for a toaster they no longer needed, and regularly swap clothes and shoes for Vining’s young sons from a previous relationship.
“It’s just a wonderful way to build community,” said Cabral, an art teacher who loves to reuse materials. “It’s a great way to reduce all the wasting and everything that would normally go to a landfill. There’s always someone who wants whatever it is that you don’t need.”
When the couple met on Bumble three years ago, their first date was a run around Prospect Park. Vining and Cabral quickly realized they were on the same page after spotting a handsome Patagonia vest on the ground they both wanted to take home. Not picking it up was their “biggest regret,” Vining said, admitting they still sometimes think about the vest.
The proposal “just perfectly aligns with our values, how we wanted to live,” said Vining. “This just felt like us. Nobody else could get engaged in this way.”
The ring itself features an aquamarine stone; neither Vining nor Cabral are fans of diamonds, stylistically or ethically. Vining had considered finding a ring through a Buy Nothing group, too, but decided this was one purchase he could justify.
“I went with a vintage ring,” he said. “It has been used — hopefully, in a happy marriage.”
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