Everywhere around us we see people in need. We also see people who want to help others but don’t know how. We connect those dots through the power of technology.
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(News story from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools)
New app links donors to student needs
A seamless connection
January 7, 2019
Katie Lindsay is one of the 77 social workers in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools who interact with students on a daily basis, helping to identify and meet their individual needs. She is also one of 10 social workers who focus on homeless students.
Lindsay knows the list of immediate needs is long. She said some families experience tragic events that wipe them out and they have to start from scratch, but the needs are not always dramatic.
"Organizations will donate shoes, but they don't always have the one size you actually need for a certain student," Lindsay said. "Or we may just need a set of paints to encourage college and career readiness for a student who is interested in art."
There are people in the community who want to help students, but they have no idea what the needs are, Lindsay said. To solve that problem, CMS Student Services has partnered with Purposity, a third-party organization that operates on a social-media platform. Its guiding principle is that humanity finds purpose through generosity. The platform has a new app that connects those in need with those who can help. With a few taps, users can instantly make a purchase that will make a difference in a student's life.
"Purposity makes it simple to bring people together," said Michele King, a CMS social work specialist. "This can make a big difference for that individual student."
The Purposity app is already being used by school districts in cities such as Atlanta and Nashville. CMS needed 500 registered users to activate its account and reached that number within 24 hours of releasing news of the effort. The app is free and there is no obligation to make a purchase, but donations are tax deductible.
App users will receive one text a week with a curated list of student needs. Social workers, who know the students and their families best, will vet the requests. Each item on the list will include a brief message, based on basic information from the social worker, and the price, which may be as low as $10 and must be less than $250. The item is shipped to the social worker, who delivers it to the student, and 100 percent of donations go to student needs.
"Purposity is ensuring the connection between the purchase and the social worker," King said. "Confidentiality is preserved. It's seamless."
Lindsay and Courtney Hawkins, who also works with homeless students, were introduced to Purposity at a session at the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth conference in 2017.
"Charlotte was one of the cities they had already identified and we raised our hands so fast," Lindsay said. "We knew we wanted to get this started in Charlotte because we really need this."
It has taken a year for the plan to come to fruition, King said. CMS had to meet the 500-user requirement to ensure an adequate number of donors are available for students from four pilot schools. Social workers from those schools will have training and then provide needs to Purposity. By the second week in January, CMS was closing in on 1,500 registered users and more schools will be added as the donor base grows.
"We're meeting very basic needs, but this takes it a little step further," Lindsay said. "It's simple, it's personalized and it's right where you live. It will make such a difference to the students. But the biggest thing is people will know they're helping someone in their community." The first list of needs is expected to appear on the app in about two weeks.