Aunt Bertha’s dedicated team of nearly 150 staff thrive on the business of helping.
Before the COVID-19 crisis hit, they spent their days updating program listings, analyzing data, and refining the Aunt Bertha platform that connects people with services they need.
But as the pandemic worsened with each new day and the size of the fallout grew, the Aunt Bertha team shifted their work to hack a new, next-level problem in the social care sector. Millions more people would soon need help — and fast.
In fact, the entire social services sector appeared to be in a state of tumult and transformation. Some nonprofits were closing their programs to protect clients, volunteers, and staff. Large partners faced an onslaught of updates and messages to make public. Meanwhile, hundreds of new services and programs were springing up, with more materializing by the hour.
Neighbors were launching their own help networks via Google spreadsheets and NextDoor. Facebook groups formed to ensure people could ask for what they needed. Companies began offering free services. Government agencies dismantled certain barriers to support. Resources were coming together in a new patchwork that had never been mapped. But how would people in need find their way?
In a matter of days, the Aunt Bertha team created findhelp.org, a second navigation tool to help people across the country address sudden lapses in unemployment, food security, or other problems they didn’t see coming a week ago. The new site can help people find what’s needed most in this new, uncertain landscape — everything from free COVID-19 testing to specific household supplies.
“It’s really hard for an individual person to keep up with everything that’s going on and cut through the noise to find what’s going to be helpful to them,” says Renee Trepagnier, Aunt Bertha’s Vice President of Operations. “We’re all affected by this. While I feel very happy to be part of this group and to recognize our own talents to reach people in need, I also recognize that people on my own team might also have needs and concerns for their own families. It’s very moving and very close to home.”
Some 90 percent of Aunt Bertha’s data operations team threw all hands on deck to create findhelp.org, and the work is ongoing. “We’re trying to react rapidly as the situation evolves and changes,” says Marcy Levitan, Director of Operations for Aunt Bertha. “We’re trying to evolve what we’re doing and turn our attention where the need seems greatest.”
Key features of the new site include a list of all federally qualified health centers that provide free or low-cost medical care. The team is also adding every state’s unemployment program, along with updates from those agencies. But the site also includes highly localized, grassroots efforts, as well as good news from companies like T-Mobile and Comcast, which are beginning to waive certain fees for customers.
Aunt Bertha’s new sister site is also more open with regard to new listings. “We normally wouldn’t list something as micro as neighbors helping neighbors do chores,” Levitan says. “But we know a lot of the help will be coming from unconventional places.”
A majority of the data operations team are conducting ongoing regional searches online to identify and collect resources to update the site. They’re watching social media feeds and local news channels, conducting their own Google searches, and reaching out to personal connections to find a range of information and new avenues for assistance. Together, they’re handling and posting approximately 200 new listings and resources daily.
While the new changes also show up on the Aunt Bertha platform, findhelp.org is tailored specifically to the COVID-19 crisis and the multitude of needs arising as a result.
findhelp.org is available now and changing throughout each day to reflect Aunt Bertha’s best assessment of needs and resources across the country. The site is free to use, and can be accessed anonymously. Aunt Bertha also welcomes new suggestions to add to the growing list of resources. Simply click the “Suggest Program” link at the bottom of the findhelp.org homepage.