With Many Trapped due to Winter Storm Jonah, Sweepers Take to the Streets to Help!

Connor knows how to shovel snow

Connor Working Hard Shoveling Snow

Over the weekend Sweepers worked all over the Triangle, helping people clean off their driveways and sidewalks. We even ran a few errands for folks who were trapped!

Check out this article in the Herald Sun which features our work over the weekend.

*Update, the article is behind a paywall at the Herald Sun so we have copied it below:

EDITOR’S PICK FEATURED

COMING BACK: Schools close, but ice melts; Sweeps’ student workers grab shovels, dig out

  • DAN E. WAY, Special to The Herald-Sun
  • Updated Jan 26, 2016

DURHAM — Schools remained closed today, but the rest of the Triangle warmed up and continued to recover from the weekend’s winter storm event.

Announcing Sunday that they would be closed today because of overnight icing Sunday into this morning were the Durham Public Schools, Orange County Schools, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Chatham County Schools, Person County Schools and Granville County Schools.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools will feature an optional teacher workday today for employees. Staff choosing to work should arrive on a two-hour delay. Operational staff, including maintenance and custodians should report to work and arrive as close to normal starting time as travel conditions permit.

Orange County Schools staff are expected to operate under Inclement Weather Code 1.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport said its operations were returning to normal Sunday after two days of winter weather impact. Some delays and cancellations were expected to continue for the next few days due to the impact of winter weather on the Northeast.

GoTriangle, Chapel Hill Transit and GoDurham bus service was expected to resume regular service today.

Most City of Durham offices, including City Hall and other non-emergency city operations are delayed until 10 a.m. today.

City of Durham crews Sunday focused on clearing both primary and secondary roads and hoped to tackle third-tier/residential streets Sunday night and into today.

Drivers were reminded to remain cautious of black ice and remain off roads if possible to allow clearing operations to proceed.

SWEEPERS ON DUTY

It didn’t take Connor Guynn long to shed his coat. Or break out into a sweat. Chopping and shoveling ice-layered snow takes a toll on the body, and Guynn took a break from his back-bending work in the Homeplace I subdivision off Woodcroft Parkway in Durham Sunday to stretch and wipe his brow.

“You know, there are other jobs that are better, in my opinion, but it’s that time of year so it’s not too bad,” said Guynn, a Raleigh native now living in Carrboro while taking some time off of his studies as a biology and psychology double major at UNC Chapel Hill.

Guynn is one of 900 college students gainfully employed by Sweeps, an innovative tech company that matches willing student workers with people looking for some temporary help. Think of Uber for transportation and you sort of get the general idea.

“I’ve been doing Sweeps for about two and a half years. I started doing it part-time when I was a sophomore at UNC, and since then it’s been either part-time or full-time,” Guynn said.

“We’ve got customers all over the state that are always posting jobs on our web site, and I get to do all kinds of different jobs so it really keeps things interesting,” he said.

“About a month ago I was able to be a bartender at a house party, and that was a lot of fun. That was a good job,” Guynn said with a chuckle.

Shoveling snow is not among his all-time favorite jobs, he admitted, but this was his first stint as an ice chopper since the winter storm hit overnight Thursday. But not because he turned the jobs down.

“I just got out of my apartment. I was snowed in the last couple of days,” Guynn said.

‘A GREAT IDEA’

Sweeps is “a great idea,” said Judith Benowitz, who lives at Homeplace I, and it was her impassable sidewalks that Guynn was laboring to free from their ice shackles.

“I don’t remember exactly how I found out about them. I think someone mentioned it to me that it was a new organization” in which UNC students were working, Benowitz said of Sweeps.

She was working at UNC for the Friday Center for Continuing Education at the time, and has been using Sweeps ever since.

“This is the first time I’ve had anybody shovel my walks, but they have come and fixed several times now my Wi-Fi printer, which keeps going out,” Benowitz said.

She even struck up a friendship with a previous UNC student who did odd jobs for her through Sweeps. The student had lived in Japan and traveled a lot. Benowitz lived in Japan for years as an English teacher, and traveled throughout Asia.

“We spent a lot of time kind of sharing our experiences in Japan,” Benowitz said.

Morris Gelblum, a UNC alumnus and Raleigh resident, is the brain trust behind Sweeps, whose contact information for interested prospective customers is sweeps.jobs and (919) 628-0828.

“I was doing it myself. I was out cleaning offices and doing odd jobs in college, and basically turned it into a business in a community, and getting a lot of other college students to help,” Gelblum said.

“Now it’s turned from that more into like a tech platform and a web app,” he said.

“We now have over 900 college students, and we’re helping people every day with anything from snow shoveling to teaching people how to use Skype, to doing grocery shopping,” he said. “Whatever somebody needs help with.”

His student work force is drawn heavily from UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke and N.C. State

“We’re also in Charlotte, Asheville and Wilmington, so we’re small, but we’ve got a lot of people ready to work,” Gelblum said. The company has a three-person permanent staff.

His student workers are known as Sweepers, and they get paid at least $15 an hour.

“They also get to work when they want, so it’s around their schedule,” Gelblum said. Students pull the jobs from the web site on a first-come, first-served basis.

“Most of our jobs are still in the Triangle — Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill,” Gelblum said. “Then we’ve done one-off jobs. Last year we had 21 guys dress up like Frankenstein in Salt Lake City for a job. So depending on the job, we can expand.”

The pay isn’t the only reward the students receive.

“I know from survey results one of the college students’ favorite parts is getting to help people, and making friends and building communities,” Gelblum said.

“We work with elderly communities, and they often recommend to their residents or people in the network to use us,” Gelblum said. That networking paid mutual dividends the past few days in a number of weather-related cleanup jobs.

— Staff writer Mark Donovan contributed to this report.