Group swoops in to help needy homeowners

April 20, 2010 1:18:30 PM PDT
In 1996, after Hurricane Fran, 16 friends were discussing what messes their yards were, so they got together and started to clean up yard after yard. When they realized how quickly they were accomplishing so much, they say they wanted to put that power to use for people who really needed it.

Now 14 years later, the group called Strong Women Organizing Outrageous Projects (SWOOP) has grown to over 1,000 members, helping whoever needs help wherever they need it.

"The first SWOOP I went to, I got to learn how to use a chain saw," SWOOP President Jane Lubischer said. "I said, this is cool ?this is way cool. I've, a couple times, heard people commenting, people in the neighborhood or in the home we're working on say, 'I didn't know women could do this sort of thing.'"

"It was so much fun seeing what a total mess it was and then being able, at the end of the day, to have it totally cleaned up," SWOOP Co-Founder LeAnn Wallace said. "We did it the second weekend and my friend said we should give ourselves a name and do this on a regular basis."

And they did, and women showed up to lend a hand.

"Now we have over 1,200 members," Wallace said.

Saturday after Saturday, they swooped in and do what often the ones they are helping cannot.

"We swoop in, we transform something in one day," Lubischer said. "And it's really a fun experience and a powerful experience and I think it makes a difference in a community."

Anyone can show up for SWOOP's one-day projects (men, teens, even dogs are welcomed). They are searching to find a corporate sponsor, donors and volunteers to help them raise about $50,000 a year for supplies.

Swoopers say they come for the friends they'll make, the skills they'll learn and for the reactions of the people they're helping.

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