The Aunt Bertha Blog

A Social Worker, a UX Designer, an Office Manager, two Business Analysts, and two Data Quality Specialists Walk Into a Community Kitchen...

Every Monday through Friday, Caritas of Austin opens their doors to deliver hot lunches to anyone in the Austin area. Starting at 9:00 each morning, a dedicated team of volunteers work under the guidance of Jennifer Mattson, Head Chef, and Brandon Harrison, Food Services Assistant, (endearingly referred to as ‘Sous Chef’ by Jennifer) to prep the Community Kitchen to serve over 250 meals daily. For the past year and a half, Mattson and Harrison have built up this well oiled machine, allowing them to serve a hot and nutritious meal to anyone who walks through their doors (Monday through Friday from 11:00am-12:30pm). That’s right — anyone.

For all you planners out there, prepare to have your minds blown — The menu for every lunch is determined by donations received at Caritas of Austin, yet, each morning Mattson and Harrison walk into the kitchen unsure of what donations had come in the night before. That means their lunches (prepared for over 300 people) are planned, created, and prepped in a matter of hours. How’s that for thinking on your toes?

Last month, seven of us at Aunt Bertha had the privilege to volunteer at the Caritas of Austin Community Kitchen for a day, and were humbled and in awe of the team’s dedication and fine-tuned process. Alongside Mattson, Harrison, and a handful of long-time volunteers, we served entrees, salad, fresh fruit, hot rolls, and washed dishes. Misty Nickle, a UX Designer at Aunt Bertha, was in charge of serving fruit and handing trays to customers. When she heard that the Kitchen feeds anyone who wants a meal, she was skeptical. “Surely they were going to have to turn people away. I was very pleasantly surprised.” Sure enough, every single person that walked through the door was served — a standard that Mattson and Harrison strive for every day.

Nickle and David Guzman, a Data Analyst at Aunt Bertha, who rarely get to witness the impact of their work, encountered a much greater experience at Caritas of Austin than just serving food.

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“It was so good to be able to see the actual faces of the people we are trying to help. Everyone who works at Aunt Bertha has their own story (I guarantee it) and sometimes, it can feel like we aren't doing enough because we can't see the actual effects we have on people.” ~ Misty Nickle, Aunt Bertha

“After volunteering with Caritas I couldn't help but feel closer to Aunt Bertha's mission. I think sometimes it can be easy to forget that there is a person in need on the other side of every single program that we list. For me, this volunteer experience was a clear reminder of the importance of the work that we do, and how impactful it can be when people are able to access the resources that they need, when they need them,” said Guzman.

Caritas’ often mispronounced name (pronounced CARE – it – ahs) means love or charity in Latin, and their mission is to prevent and end homelessness for people in Greater Austin. Although they’re first priority is working with people to establish stable housing, many don’t realize they offer comprehensive wrap-around services including: food services (enter, Community Kitchen), education classes, job placement, refugee resettlement support, and veterans assistance.

According to ECHO’s (The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition in Austin, TX) annual count of people experiencing homelessness, 2,036 persons were counted as homeless on January 28, 2017 — an 11% increase from 2015 (http://www.austinecho.org/about-homelessness). That’s why these services are needed now more than ever in the Greater Austin community.

If you’re in the Austin area and are interested in volunteering with Caritas of Austin, visit their Volunteer page at www.caritasofaustin.org/get-involved/volunteer.

To find other community kitchens or meals in your area, go to www.auntbertha.com and select the “Food” category to see programs serving your zip code.

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Topics: volunteerism Community building providers

Capital Area Food Bank Leverages Aunt Bertha's Technology to Break Down Barriers


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Photo courtesy of CAFB

The Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) is the largest organization in the Washington metro area working to solve hunger and its companion problems: chronic undernutrition, heart disease, and obesity. As the CAFB has worked for the past 36 years to strengthen the safety net under the region’s most vulnerable neighbors, it has provided nourishing food and other resources to over 540,000 people living in our nation’s capital and its surrounding suburbs in Maryland and Virginia. Many of those residents visit pantries, soup kitchens, and other non-profits who receive food from the CAFB; but sometimes, a neighbor in need doesn’t know where their next meal will come from.

For those emergency moments, the CAFB had, until 2015, operated a Hunger Lifeline, whereby community members would call a number to be referred  to the food assistance partner by a CAFB team member on the other end of the phone line. Though well-intentioned, over time the CAFB noticed that these referrals were creating red tape for their callers as they could not receive services without making that call. When the CAFB realized that they had become a gatekeeper, more than a gateway, they knew they had to make a change.

So in 2015, the CAFB did away with their referral system entirely and launched the Food Bank Network, an online search portal for social services, powered by Aunt Bertha. The Food Bank Network is free to the public and offers resources that go beyond food assistance, such as housing, transit, goods and health programs. “It empowers individuals to find the services they need on their own time, with their privacy intact. And it ensures that those resources are up to date," says CAFB’s Director of Marketing, Kirsten Bourne.

And empowered, they are. Before the implementation of Food Bank Network, the CAFB averaged 600 calls to their Hunger Lifeline every month. Following the launch of the Food Bank Network, calls dropped to an average of 50 calls per month. During the same period, the Network has averaged 2,176 online searches per month.

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Because the Food Bank Network captures information for a broader range of services, CAFB can work with their nearly 450 partners to support their community in a deeper, more holistic way.  “We are much more sophisticated about the data we have in terms of need... and are able to better understand the pressing issues facing people that are living in poverty and help organizations unite to face those challenges,” says Bourne. “Food is the hook to bring people into literacy, job training programs and housing.”

Paula Reichel, DC Director of CAFB elaborates, “People and nonprofits oftentimes operate in silos; the [Food Bank Network] is bringing awareness to the very essence of what we are – a network…”

Through her work, Reichel has found that people of all backgrounds and occupations are providing resources for their fellow community members. “Whether it’s policemen, librarians or even teachers with food in their desk, Food Bank Network is a tool for anyone.”

To learn more about what services people are looking for in the greater Washington DC area, download our free report.

Download Washington DC Report 

Topics: data Community building empowerment

Come Hang Out With Auntie B On May 1st!

Come hang out with us on our Google+ page on May 1st. We will be sharing how to get Aunt Bertha in your neighborhood and also getting your ideas on building Team Bertha!

Google+ is Google's new social networking platform.

It allows multiple users to utilize video technology simultaneously to video chat, share videos with each other, and engage in other neatcollaborations. Aunt Bertha wants to utilize the openfunction of G+ to connect with anyone who wants in depth information about our organization and how they can get involved.

Our first G+ hangout will be on May 1st and we'll be talking about building community!

Building Community

Recent articles in Mashable (12),  TBD, earning the opportunity to be an Unreasonable organization, and our efforts over the last year has a lot of folks vying to get involved with Aunt Bertha, especially getting our services in their town! On May 1st we will be showing specific tools developed to do just that.

Format

The Google+ hangout will be Tuesday11am-1pm EST(May 1st).

I will do a brief community roll out training (5-10 minutes) and we'll discuss any specific questions guests may have. I will re do the roll out training for new guests every 30-45 depending on audience flow.

Feel free to stop by for 5 minutes or the whole thing!

What: Google+ Hangout:Building Aunt Bertha's Community In Your Area
When: May 1st 2012 11am-1pm
Where: Virtual (click here to set up a G+ account)

Aunt Bertha's G+ Hangouts will be the first Tuesday of every month starting on May 1st.

Leave a comment or tweet us if you're coming to the first hangout!

Topics: aunt bertha online community crowd sourcing Community building G+ Hangouts Google Plus crowdsourcing May 1st