Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Southern Maryland Give Camp -- Don't think twice, it's all right.

Awhile back, I was sitting in a CACSE meeting and Jim Pendarvis started talking about a "Give Camp."  "What's a Give Camp?" we asked.  Didn't understand most of what he said, but I did glom onto the words "free" and "website" and "professional."  And so it began...

To see what a Give Camp is according to Jim, check out Southern Maryland Give Camp.  My nutshell version is that a bunch (herd?  flock?  gaggle?) of techie-types agree to donate their time and expertise in the field of information technology (IT) to help non-profit organizations and charities (very IT-needy people) with their information technology needs.  (Think websites or databases or the like.)  And they agree to do this within one weekend, with very little sleep and lots of caffeine.  And Jim arranges to get just about everything everybody needs for FREE!  I mean everything:  Location and food and door prizes, software and licenses and web hosting, internet access and energy drinks and haircuts (long story).

Nineteen non-profit organizations (NPOs) were selected to receive help.  One hundred and one volunteers showed up to give it.  I was involved with three NPOs:  The Autism Spectrum Support Group of Southern Maryland, The Citizens' Advisory Committee for Special Education, and The Learning Disabilities Association of St. Mary's County.  All three groups needed websites with various features.  Check them out -- see what IT volunteers made for us in 42 hours.  I think you'll be awed!

My main project was for the Autism Spectrum Support Group of SoMD.  While we've maintained a private listserv since 2003, I've wanted us to have a public website for years.  A couple of years ago, two of us tried to make one on one of those "free" website places, but when you've got a budget of zero dollars (literally), you become the poster child for "you get what you pay for."  Our website was pitiful at best, and when I couldn't maintain it easily, it went downhill from there.  There's just no comparison to the new website.

So now here's the part I've got to say:  Thank you, thank you, thank you to Jim for setting up the entire Give Camp and shaving his head (that same long story).  I don't know how many hours Jim put in prior to the weekend of the Give Camp, but I can tell you that I've never seen anything run as smoothly as this event.  Whatever anyone needed, he was sure to have anticipated.  And if there were glitches, we didn't see them.  His commitment to the event was palpable.  And though the word is overused, Jim was awesome!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to David Makogon for being the lead on the Autism Spectrum Support Group of SoMD project.  I've never, never ever had any service provider listen to what I said the way David did.  He listened, he heard, and he improved on it.  By the time we were "hands off" at 12 noon on Sunday, I had a website that was useful and user-friendly.  (These are not namby-pamby adjectives.)   It contains so much more than the "top 3 priorities" we requested.  And most importantly, I had been trained to maintain and update it.  What more could I have asked for? 

And thank you to Rusty Romaine and Steve Michelotti for working on this project with us.  Every time I looked into the room, some combination of the three of them was hard at work figuring out how to do what they wanted with Sitefinity, a great website content management system.  So thanks go to Telerik  for donating the professional Sitefinity license as well as to DiscountASP.NET for hosting our new website and our database, for free, for life!

Didn't I say that Jim Pendarvis is awesome?

Please visit the new website; bookmark it, share it, love it!!

1 comment:

David Makogon said...

You held the record for most "happy tears" during the Give Camp. At least when I get choked up, nobody's around to see.

Your kind words are overwhelming. I'm just glad that I was part of such a great team, and got to work with such an awesome organization!

And yea, Jim's pretty amazing for pulling this event off like he did. I ate so much, I could probably hibernate for a month and be ok...