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  • Help Coordinating Volunteers: Lots of Helping Hands

    Posted on November 3rd, 2010 Ruth Abusch-Magder 1 comment

    by Ruth Abusch-Magder

    Lots of Helping Hands is the kind of web resource that puts to rest any skepticism about the usefulness of the web for creating and maintaining real life community. A tool for organizing volunteer help, it can become an indispensible aid not only for specific individuals but also for the Hesed Committee coordinators.

    I first learned about LHH, as it is abbreviated, from Pamela Kelner the Director of Jewish Family Services in Nashville, Tennessee. Kelner has used the site for both helping individuals and for larger scale projects. The site invites users to set up communities around particular issues or people for which volunteer help is needed. Typical uses might be those with new babies or undergoing short or long term illness but it could also be used for shiva coordination or preparations for the High Holidays.

    Upon registration, which is free of charge –as is the entire service- coordinators are welcome to input lists of tasks that need to happen to get help to the person in need, rides to chemo, help with picking up kids, a visit. According to Kelner, “you can really specify your needs, one family was gluten free and nut free, they could post recipes that they liked, they could specify this pizza place has gluten free. It is a way to communicate your needs in a straight forward way.” Addresses for doctors, hospitals and meal delivery are all easily stored on the calendar with the tasks.

    Potential helpers are then invited to join the community, view the needs, and volunteer for particular tasks. The work of scheduling and seeing what is needed when is largely regulated by the volunteers themselves. It is very user friendly. Jennifer Oppenheimer of Chicago who recently used the site to help coordinate support for a relative going through cancer treatment noted that the site takes some of the discomfort out of trying to be helpful, “I have been part of groups that help [sick friends or congregants] and this would have made it easier. Because sometimes you don’t want to bother the person [in need] you want to help and this allows you to help without contacting the person directly.” In addition to delineating the tasks clearly, the site also lets you specify how many volunteers are needed which cuts down on duplication.

    Both Oppenheimer and Kelner noted that the visual aspect and online gathering place for volunteers is a wonderful feature of using LHH. Oppenheimer noted that each time someone signed into the community, the cancer patient “experienced it like a hug.” Kelner felt the impact on the volunteers who “could see how many people were involved. This was a band new family to our community and when you saw that there were 70 people signed up it was empowering.”

    Coordinating the intake of volunteers and inputting the needs takes some work. But the technical skill needed is limited and multiple coordinators can share the work. Sharing the task of coordinating is a good way of getting those who live at a distance to get involved. Different coordinators can be assigned different tasks, such as intake of volunteers and sending out email announcements. Like the Caring Bridge, the site can also be used to update the community about the status of the individual seeking help. It is a terrific tool for communicating more broadly.

    Kelner does point out that she would not necessarily use the sight for coordinating a large group where there are many tasks that need to be done at the same time slot. The interface is not well set up for that sort of coordination.


    One response to “Help Coordinating Volunteers: Lots of Helping Hands”

    1. We use this at Congregation Beth Israel preschool to coordinate meals for families with new babies or health issues. It’s great! I love that when I sign up for something a month in advance, it send me reminders the week of date I’m to deliver a meal.

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