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Our Humble Beginnings... Big Storm Brought Big Ideas

July 5, 2016, 3:56 p.m. · 0 comments

By Krista Petty, Community Connector

Do you know how CharityTracker and Oasis Insight got their start? Our technology company was simply asked to help our local community. From that adventure in serving our neighbors in need came a huge innovation that has spread across the United States. It's beyond what we could have ever imagined! Here's a bit of our story, if you haven't heard it already.

Big Storm Brings Synergy...

When Hurricane Katrina hit a stretch of Alabama coast in 2005, it devastated small coastal shrimping towns like Bayou La Batre and others along Mobile Bay. And while the storm had an immediate and visible effect coastally, many did not see the ripple affect into other communities.

The Ripple North...

Southern Alabama families and entire neighborhoods migrated almost 400 miles north, settling in a metropolitan area in northwestern Alabama called The Shoals. Agencies and churches in The Shoals area quickly formed a VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) coalition to provide a continuum of care, response, and recovery for these displaced families. Some community agencies worked for upwards of 18 months or more to help relocate families. The VOAD team included the United Way, Red Cross, Faith Church, people from the Social Security Administration and many other churches and agencies.

A Collaborative Spirit Not Enough

While the agencies, organizations and churches in the Shoals had a collaborative spirit, they found communication and coordination difficult. With 330 families to place, resources dried up quickly. Agencies discovered they weren’t always getting the same information from people, and didn’t know who was giving aid to whom.

As the agencies continued to work together, even after the immediate disaster was over, they realized the need for better coordination and communication. They needed to tool to be able to share information in real time to work more effectively together. After checking into several system options and finding them either ineffective or too costly, the VOAD team and United Way director began working with locals Mike Simon and his team of software and web developers at Simon Solutions to create a tool specifically to meet their needs. What was created by was an affordable, easy-to-use, web-based system by which agencies and churches could share their assistance records and information with one another.

CharityTracker was born...

While we did not realize it at the time, we created a useful tool for our community that could be utilized for every community and city in America. From our humble beginnings in disaster relief for our own community, CharityTracker has grown to be used in 1,049 cities and has continued to innovate solutions. We've come a long way, like creating more in-depth reporting features and building in the opportunity to track outcomes and assessments. We've had many developments, like Oasis Insight, which was created off of CharityTracker to serve the specific needs of food banks and food pantries with a variety of innovations and technology solutions.

What began as a mission to help our local community has grown into a vision to help every community in the U.S. to build strong collaborative networks that transform communities. Long story short, we build web applications. We’re nerds with a passion for making computers work for you, not against you. Our manifesto is simple - carefully listen and continually improve. It's how we got started and how we continue to operate today. Thanks for joining us on this adventure for the past 10 years!

Above photo of by Marvin Nauman (This image is from the FEMA Photo Library.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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