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Athens Banner-Herald, July 6th, 2013

July 6, 2013, noon · 0 comments

Charity Tracker helps nonprofits assist those in need, maximize resources

Athens, Georgia

By April Burkhart, Published Saturday, July 6, 2013

It’s been almost two years since a group of churches and agencies came together to assemble a database to help them better serve people in Athens in need of financial assistance.

Since its official launch in January 2012, Charity Tracker — or the Athens Area Compassion Cooperative, as it is known locally — not only has allowed churches and agencies to securely share records, notes, alerts and other information, but also has helped to maximize resources and weed out people trying to take advantage of services.

“In the past it was really hard for us to know where an individual had already been for assistance or where to send them to get immediate needs met,” said Lucy Hudgens, executive director of The Ark, one of the agencies that helped bring Charity Tracker, a Web application, to Athens. “Charity Tracker has allowed all of these agencies and churches to be on the same page, share resources and help each other.” Hudgens now chairs the steering committee that oversees the Athens Area Compassion Cooperative.

Dawn Aiello, community programs director for Community Connection of Northeast Georgia, is the site’s network administrator and said one of the things she’s noticed the application do is help agencies and churches meet people’s needs more quickly.

A recent example includes a family that came to The Ark. One of the parents had been laid off and the family was facing eviction. The Ark was able to get on Charity Tracker to determine whether the parent had been helped elsewhere, and found out they had not. Hudgens then posted a bulletin to other agencies and churches to get assistance for the family before the eviction was finalized. A few of the groups came together and were able to generate the funds needed to keep the family from being evicted.

Enhancing communication and collaboration between agencies and churches also has resulted in the generation of a complete picture of an individual’s circumstances. If agencies can see that a person received mental health services from Advantage Behavioral Health System, stayed three nights at a local shelter and recently needed help to pay for a medical expense, they can determine what the root problem might be and help the person overcome it, Aiello explained. By attacking the root of the problem, agencies and other service providers hope to help the person get out of their situation and become self-sufficient, rather than providing quick fixes to immediate needs.

“In the past, agencies have always had one piece of the puzzle. Now we can see a complete picture of a person’s life and needs,” Hudgens said.

The Athens Area Compassion Cooperative network currently comprises 24 agencies, but Aiello and Hudgens are encouraging government, nonprofit and faith-based organizations not already a part of the network to sign up.

Here's a link to the original article.

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