Gosia Wozniacka is crazy about her goats and her goats are crazy about blackberry bushes. When Wozniacka’s beloved pets ate through all of the foliage on her Portland lot, she turned to Rooster—an online pay-it-forward community that’s blowing up in this city—for help. “In addition to buying them alfalfa at the feed store, we like to provide them some fresh food once in a while ... meaning, their favorite blackberry bushes. Once I posted on Rooster, [I] got a bunch of responses quickly.”
Wozniacka was looking for overgrown blackberry bushes that her goats could munch on, giving the goats fresh food in exchange for a mowed yard. Through Rooster, she found them. “The couple we ended up ‘borrowing’ the goats to were wonderful. They had a great, solid fence and lots of blackberry bushes growing all over the backyard. The goats were happy, the couple who hosted the goats had a completely clean backyard a week later, and we were happy the goats got some good snacks."
The brainchild of California-based Tali Saar and Gil Lederman, Rooster connects neighbors in order to share their resources and skills. In the five months since it’s sprouted in Stumptown, the site has amassed 10,000 active users here, handing on everything from kids’ ski boots to glucose meters. Portlanders are even inviting each other to things like Seder dinner, offering free computer help, and sharing recipe development skills. The only requirement is that if you're on the receiving end of what they're calling "an act of kindness," you pay it forward.
Saar and Lederman are self-described nomads from Israel who now reside in Berkeley, California by way of New York, Central America, and coastal Mexico. Soon after their arrival to the Golden State, the couple started a mailing list in the hopes of cultivating a community around them in an area where they virtually knew no one. Things took off in California, and soon enough, Portlanders who’d heard about their project were begging for them to bring it north. “People were so warm and friendly in Portland that we knew it would be a success.”
For Saar, “[Community has] always been a theme in my life and it’s something that makes me very happy.” Soon after college in Tel Aviv, she helped create a professional community for Google so that Google employees could share things they’d learned and help each other. “It was the original inspiration for what Rooster has turned into.”
Lederman is a computer programmer and a self-taught anthropologist and philosopher. The idea for Rooster gained momentum when he read a book about ancient societies and their need to rely on and trust one another by sharing what resources they had available to them. The duo has tapped into that ancient history and discovered what a community that shares resources and experiences without the constraints of money looks like in a modern environment.
Saar and Lederman have been overwhelmed by the response, with the site growing daily in users and the "acts of kindness" multiplying. “It’s has been amazing to see that the community we were dreaming of is really possible," says Saar.