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SWOOP renovates ACRA house
SWOOP volunteers redesigning the Blevins House memorial Garden

by Mitch Null

SWOOP co-founder Sandy Fitzgerald.
DURHAM — In early February AIDS Community Residence Association (ACRA) and Strong Women Organizing Outrageous Projects (SWOOP) teamed up to renovate one of ACRA‘s local houses in Durham.

ACRA is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and serves the local area to provide housing, compassionate care, and supportive services to individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS. They currently operate three houses in Durham, including an apartment building and a 24-hour care facility. ACRA was a pioneer with the opening of Buchanan Place, which was the area’s first scattered-site housing for individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS. While providing diverse housing options remains ACRA’s key focus, the demand for its case management services has grown tremendously in the past years.

SWOOP unofficially began in September 1996 in the aftermath of Hurricane Fran in Raleigh. Several friends emerged from their debris-strewn houses and yards and banded together to help each other clean up the mess. This group of women quickly discovered that, though the work was tough, they were totally invigorated by the power that they all felt from totally cleaning up a place that, when they arrived, had looked devastated. After a couple of very full weekends of hurricane work, they decided that they enjoyed working together so much that they formally declared themselves an organization to help others in need.

For this project, SWOOP volunteers donated their time to spruce up ACRA’s oldest house. The volunteers did yard work, window cleaning, painting of interior walls, pressure washing of the exterior and much more. ACRA volunteers assisted in the effort and manages the logistics of the project with SWOOP leaders.

 In addition to SWOOP’s efforts, generous donations from local businesses made it possible to completely renovate parts of the house and maintain volunteer motivation throughout this labor-intensive project. 

A local home builder donated kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets and vanities. Kitchen design and installation was done by Top Masters owner, Eric Jones of Clayton, N.C. Reckless Paint & Accessories owner, Brian Reckless, donated paint for the cause. Three local Starbucks led by Mount Moriah store owner Alex Cordahi and her partners, donated and served coffee, muffins and scones to the hard-working volunteers. Numerous others contributed to this monumental effort and SWOOP and ACRA extend a heartfelt thanks for their support.

To volunteer with SWOOP, call 919-341-0899. For more information about ACRA, call 919-956-7901.

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