Nonprofit organizations get hacked to benefit communities

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Nonprofit organizations are getting hacked, but it’s not what you may think. Computer hackers volunteered their weekend to help nonprofit organizations, like Neighbors Helping Neighbors in South Hadley, better connect with the people they’re trying to serve through programs like their Bag the Community food drive.

“We’ve honestly been using very low-tech, paper sign-ups, calling people on the phone and asking them to volunteer in the past, so I’ve always been advocating for us to branch out,” Caitlin Kidder, a volunteer for Bag the Community, told 22News.

More than 150 computer programmers and community organizers gathered at Gateway City Arts in Holyoke, for the second annual Hack for Western Mass, part of the National Civic Hacking movement.

“What an amazing idea. All this talent, working together for local problems,” said Elyssa Serrilli who said her expertise was being a community organizer.

Saturday morning, programmers listened to nonprofit organization’s pitches. Then they chose which one they wanted to contribute to.

A major focus of this weekend is on the creative process. Volunteer hackers are listening to the needs of the nonprofit organization and pitching ideas of their own to best come up with something that will be useful for all of them in the long run.

“See the presentations on Sunday and think wow, you guys had basically 12 hours and you hacked together something that really helps the community organization in the local area to do something that they couldn’t do before,” said Carrie Bernstein, an organizer of Hack for Western Mass.

For Neighbors Helping Neighbors, that could mean creating a volunteer recruitment tool for Bag the Community, which in turn, could help feed more South Hadley residents who may be hungry. It was a real volunteer effort from start to finish.

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