From Dream to Delivery

GiveCamp St. Louis – January 14th-16th, 2011

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2011 Event Recap

Event Overview

During the weekend of January 14th through January 16th, the St. Louis area technology community participated in a national GiveCamp event. With Microsoft’s assistance, similar events were held simultaneously in the following citieclip_image004s:

  • Austin, Texas

  • Phoenix, Arizona

  • Birmingham, Alabama

  • Colorado Springs, Colorado

  • Dallas, Texas

  • Atlanta, Georgia

  • Houston, Texas

  • Nashville, Tennessee

  • Dallas, Pennsylvania

  • Fayetteville, Arkansas

  • New York City, New York

  • Malvern, Pennsylvania

  • Redmond, Washington

  • St. Louis, Missouri

  • The coordinated events were held on Martin Luther King weekend and made possible via a large number of great national sponsors and local volunteers.

    More information on the National GiveCamp initiative can be found on the national website at:  http://www.givecamp.org.  You can also follow them on Twitter @GiveCamp.  The hashtag “#GiveCamp” is also frequently used with GiveCamp information.

    The URL for information on the St. Louis GiveCamp is: http://www.givecampstl.com.

    St. Louis GiveCamp

    After working with the St. Louis chapter of the United Way to solicit over 30 proposals from local and regional non-profit organizations, the St. Louis organizers narrowed our final list of project selections down to 11 great organizations with IT needs we felt we could address within the course of a long weekend.

    clip_image006On the evening of Friday, January14th, representatives from these 11 agencies came together with over 60 volunteers from the St. Louis technology community too kick off a long weekend of problem solving and development fueled by pizza and caffeine.

    The projects, some of which are described below, ranged from complete redesign and branding of websites to internal volunteer tracking applications written on such widely disparate platforms as Microsoft Access and Silverlight RIA services. One project even included onsite IT support including the running of conduit and installation of new servers. All agencies provided onsite volunteers to work closely with the various project teams to design highly customized solutions to suite their particular needs.

    The event was held at Washington Universities CAIT center in Clayton. The donation of the CAIT facilities was a large factor in the success of this year’s event as it provided all teams with an excellent working environment consisting of labs, projectors, whiteboards, and computers pre-loaded with many different development tools and technologies.

    clip_image008Many great sponsors helped provide food and refreshments to all St. Louis volunteers including Domino’s Pizza who provided our location with 50 large pizzas and Coke donated 15 cases of soda. The St. Louis volunteers also consumed three large (28” and 10-lbs) Pointersaurus pizzas from Pointers Pizza. While not the healthiest of weekends in terms of food, the donated food went a long way to keep all the team members focused on delivering great solutions to those in need.

    After working long hours from Friday evening through late Sunday afternoon, the event drew to a close with an opportunity for recognition for each of the teams. Each team leader presented their agencies solution to all the teams. They demonstrated the improvements of the new solution over the previous processes and discussed how the solution would affect the day-to-day work at their particular agency. After a raffle of numerous prizes to our volunteers (which ranged from free versions of Office 2010 Professional to a Kuerig coffee maker), volunteers from both the non-profit agencies and the technology community headed out to spend the few remaining hours of their weekend with family and friends…and most likely doing something far less important than the 2+ days they spent using their skills to help others.

    If you were one of the great volunteers who donated your time and talents to this year’s event, I thank you. I hope you consider doing so again for next year’s event as we try to grow this concept to do even more to help our communities and our neighbors.

    Projects

    This year’s GiveCamp event in St. Louis chose 11 agencies to support throughout our weekend of work. Each agency responded to an RFP distributed through the United Way. Upon selection, each agency was assigned a local volunteer “lead” who would ultimately be responsible for running the team of volunteers to deliver their solution. These 11 leads coordinated logistics with their particular agencies in the days and weeks leading up to our event so that, when the Friday night kick off arrived, each lead had a very good idea of his agencies needs and had a general architecture and project plan in place. On the clip_image010first evening of the event, each lead gathered 4-5 volunteers into a team that would be focused solely on delivering the specified solution to the agency. The ultimate goal was to deliver a 100% complete solution by the closing ceremonies on Sunday evening. Ultimately, a few of our projects did have some wrap-up work occur the week after the event but, for the most part, all projects were successful in delivering great solutions to every agency through the hard work and dedication of all team members.

    The following agencies were those chosen for this year’s event. Even if you were not involved this year as a volunteer, we encourage you to consider becoming involved with these agencies (or others in your area) as we were all humbled by the great things they do on a daily basis.

    Agency

    Url

    Call for Help http://www.callforhelpinc.org
    Jewish Family & Children’s Services http://jfcs-stl.org/m-home.php
    Senior Services Plus http://www.seniorservicesplus.org/
    Employment Connection http://employmentstl.org/
    Alton Crisis Food Center
    Emmaus Homes http://www.emmaushomes.org/
    Provident http://providentstl.org/
    Illinois Center for Autism http://www.illinoiscenterforautism.org/
    Delta Gamma Center for Children with Visual Impairments http://dgckids.org/
    The ALS Association http://webstl.alsa.org
    United Way of Greater St. Louis http://www.gennexstl.org

    Project Descriptions

    (The following list is incomplete and I will be adding more project overviews as I confirm information from each lead.)

    Alton Crisis Food Center

    · Lead: Ian Lackey

    The Crisis Food Center team built an application to track information regarding the service provided by the Alton Crisis Food Center. The food center needs this information to report to The United Away as well as others to secure financing for providing services to its clients. In addition, having this information in a digital format will allow for analysis of trends not previously identifiable. The application developed during GiveCamp consisted of a Silverlight 4 user interface taking advantage of SQL Server 2008 and RIA Services to provide a rich, data entry application for use by the agency volunteers. DiscountAsp.net provided free hosting for the final solution and the Crisis Food Center can now better track all aspects of the services they provide to others.

    Employment Connection

    · Lead: Jacob Adams

    · URL: http://employmentstl.org/

    The overall goal of the Employment Connection volunteers was to give the agency a new image to help it appeal to new employers and partners. This goal encompassed two separate projects: the development of a new website and the development of new marketing materials. The new site, in addition to being visually appealing and more organized, will make future content management easier. It will also provide reduced hosting and software costs for the agency. The second project was to create new marketing material for Employment Connection. This work included brochures, a newsletter, and an email marketing template. In addition to the tangible work performed, the volunteers also shared design and branding tips with the agency’s representative.

    Illinois Center for Autism

    · Lead: Muljadi Budiman

    · URL: http://www.illinoiscenterforautism.org/

    Illinois Center for Autism provides support and assistance for guardianship, health care, skill training, care and service facilitation for children and young adults that have autism.  One of the core services that they offer is schooling. They currently have over 150 students and needed a way to better track their students and attendance.  They were currently using a collection of Excel workbooks to store attendance info for each and every one of these children on a day-to-day basis. They were also performing significant double entry into multiple workbooks so as to get different report formats.  They reached out to GiveCamp for help in streamlining this process to provide better recordkeeping.

    It was ultimately decided that a simple Microsoft Access application was the best solution for their needs. The new application provides an easy way for attendance taker to easily group by classroom, record attendance, generate billing, per student attendance, quarterly school-grouped attendance and a summary per student attendance reports.  The data stored is easily accessible and can be used to generate other reports or to try to see if a trend is occurring.  They foresee the application as improving the efficiency on their report generation process which currently takes 5 hours every month. They believe the new solution will cut this time down to a matter of minutes.

    Pictures

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