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How two Southwest residents are cleaning up metro Detroit

Clean sweep

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Carolina Torres was searching for guitar lessons for her son when she stumbled upon the Southwest community organization Grace in Action. The group is a start-up church of sorts and they offer free programming to local kids, guitar lessons included. Torres has been an active member of the group ever since.

A native of Venezuela, Torres worked in human resources before immigrating to the U.S. and her specialty was work cooperatives. So when she met Maria Perez, who's been a professional cleaning lady for years, an idea for a cleaning cooperative was quickly conceived.

After the careful study of rules and regulation, the input of lawyers, and the aid of Grace in Action co-founders Meghan Sobocienski and John Cummings, Cleaning in Action was born.

"Grace in Action, they're the ones who helped us out with everything. They helped us with market research and finding funding for training and lawyers," says Perez.

The co-op was established in 2015, and while things are moving slowly, they're moving. They recently gained LLC status and they have a professional logo. The women clean homes in the city and the suburbs and will travel to any reasonable distance in the metro area. They'll do deep cleaning or just make your beds and sweep your floor — it's really up to you.

But, those are the boring bits and pieces of the story. Even when pressed about the services they offer, Perez and Torres brush those minute details to the wayside. It's the chance to invite other Southwest Detroit women to join their work cooperative and a chance at real ownership that thrills them.

"The people in this community are good workers, but they are just workers. They're not owners. They work in factories all the time and they don't have a life. They don't have time for their families," Torres says.

Joining a work co-op would change that for many Southwest residents, they just have to buy in.

"The idea is that all the workers are members of the co-op, and in the co-op everyone is the same. No one is higher, no one is lower," says Perez. "We don't call them workers, we call them members."

Right now the co-op has three members and an additional two in training, but for all their enthusiasm, the Cleaning in Action co-founders say they're having a hard time finding members to join their cooperative.

"The people in Southwest are hard workers," Torres says, "But they just want to work. They don't want to come to meetings or learn about the co-op." So, the two are working to change the mindset of many in their community, hoping to offer them a chance at upward mobility.

"People who want to learn and grow, they'll want to be part of the co-op," says Perez. "We gotta work on that mentality."

While all members of the co-op are equal and share in the business's profits, there is a chance to grow within the organization. They can move on to be a supervisor or do administrative work.

Joining a work cooperative has other benefits too. Members are allowed to schedule jobs that would fit around their life, which allows them to accommodate their children and have time off with their families.

The women assert that Cleaning in Action is the first work co-op in Southwest Detroit, so they realize they face challenges in recruiting new members, but they say they won't let that hold them back.

"We're planting and the little seeds are popping up," says Perez.

While Cleaning in Action was born out of a Christian organization, Perez says the co-op itself doesn't operate with any religious overtones. "We believe God's grace is in everyone," she says. "We're not judging anyone, whoever comes will get served."

The pair hopes to be successful, of course, but they hope their organization will inspire others to create opportunities for ownership within the community.

"Our goal is that people will know we are a co-op," says Torres. "And that other co-ops will pop up within the community."

Call Cleaning in Action at

313-828-8072.

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