Team Rooster

The founders of Rooster wanted to create a platform where people could share goods and services and create relationships with neighbors. Provided 

Do you want to try camping, but don’t own equipment? Or maybe learn a new language? Do you have toys or furniture you’d like to give away?

A new website aiming to create community in the Charleston area hopes to help out.

Rooster, a community-based platform, went live Monday. 

“I could really use some maternity clothes, so I’m willing to give it a try,” said Emily Jones of Charleston, who is expecting her first baby in the fall. “I just moved here and don’t know a lot of people, so if this helps build a network, I’m all for it.”

In the days before social media, people who needed something often went to their neighbors for a cup of sugar, a rake, a helping hand.

But now, many people barely nod or wave a hand when they see their neighbors, much less borrow something or create a meaningful relationship with them.

Hoping to remedy that, California husband-and-wife duo Tali Saar and Gil Lederman gathered some friends a few years ago and created Rooster, a community platform where neighbors help, borrow, swap and share with one another — totally for free.

“My friends and I spent a lot of time thinking about how distant we have become as a society,” said Saar. “It’s making us lonely, and sad, and it feels like we can’t trust anyone, and like we don’t belong anywhere anymore.”

Rooster’s founders say theirs is the story of a group of friends setting out to change the world, one act of kindness at a time.

Based on the “pay it forward” premise, the site, charleston.rooster.co, connects people who need help, need an item or just want to get together.

"I can see where something like this could find a place in today's society," said Sherri Young, a family counselor in Summerville. "In today's nomadic society, people could find themselves living in a town where they know very few people and aren't sure where to turn when they need help with something."

People who sign up for Rooster are connected with others in their community. They can give away or ask for items; lend and borrow items; exchange skills (Spanish lessons for music lessons, for instance); invite others to free, non-commercial community-driven events; get advice and recommendations; and arrange ride shares, shared tool sheds, etc.

The site will not accept posts for selling or buying items, or listings involving medications, jobs, housing, real estate, coupons or adult content.

Participants are urged to try to find a balance between giving and taking.

“We started a mailing list and invited the few people we did know and they invited their friends,” said Saar, who's also the CEO. “We had a Thanksgiving potluck and eight people showed up, people we didn’t know before.”

Their email list grew to thousands as people swapped used children’s toys or furniture and asked each other for help.

“One friend invited another, people started discussing Rooster over social media, and before we knew it thousands of people were participating,” Saar said.

But the site really took off when Portland, Ore., was added as a community. That site soon had 60,000 members who were getting together for potluck dinners, providing crutches and wheelchairs to people who need them, arranging carpools and more.

Rooster even helped Portland goat owner Gosia Wozniacka find some neighbors who needed their overgrown blackberry bushes trimmed. Wozniacka loaned her pets to the couple and a week later, the goats were happy and so were the homeowners.

“Portland was just a mega-breakout,” Saar said. “It was like, whoa. It kind of kept us thinking that maybe it could work in other places as well.”

Soon, more than 500 cities and towns from across the country reached out to the founders, wanting to start their own Rooster communities.

“We got emails from everywhere in the United States,” Saar said. “We analyzed where we had the most requests and came up with a list of places to expand. Charleston was high on that list.”

More than 200 people locally signed up on Monday, the day the site went live, and each day since has seen 100 or more new participants, all just through spreading the word on social media.

“I saw it on Facebook and thought I’d check it out,” said Charleston resident Amy Smith. “I’m not sure what I have to offer, but if there’s someone out there who needs something, I want to do what I can to help.”

The site has been compared to nextdoor, freecycle and Craig’s List, Saar said. While Rooster may have some aspects in common with those sites, “it’s a little different experience,” she said. “Nextdoor, for instance, is a forum for neighbors to chat. We’re focused only on sharing, helping, putting what you need out there. Rooster is about tapping into a community of people, and connecting people around this experience of sharing.”

Reach Brenda Rindge at 843-937-5713. Follow her on Twitter @brindge.