Geeks Give Back: Ann Arbor Give Camp Returns To Aid Charities

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Want to see geeks cry? Come to the closing ceremonies of Ann Arbor GiveCamp this September and that’s exactly what you’ll find: web developers, programmers and graphic artists moved to tears because their skills made a vital contribution to a charity or nonprofit group desperately in need of a new Web site or a custom software application.

“We realize that many charities don’t have the budget to move ahead technologically. This is our way of making a difference,” said Michael Eaton, a professional software developer and organizer of the 2009 and 2010 Ann Arbor GiveCamp. 

Ann Arbor GiveCamp is a weekend-long event where software developers, designers, and database administrators donate their time to create custom software for non-profit organizations. Their motto: Geeks Giving Back. Projects range from building new web sites or software to keep track of data or donors. The only limitation is that the project should be able to be completed in a weekend.

Similar GiveCamps are held in Lansing, Grand Rapids and around the country. Charities and volunteers from southeastern Michigan are being sought for Ann Arbor GiveCamp will be held Sept. 17-19 at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor. The college is donating space for the event. Microsoft Corp., Domino’s Pizza and Pepsi are major sponsors of the event.

Ann Arbor GiveCamp was originally scheduled for July but was rescheduled for September in order to better accommodate the volunteers and nonprofit organizations attending.

“We are accepting applications through the end of July from charities that need our help. We’re also taking applications for volunteers from our geek community, the people who will do the work on behalf of these charities over the course of a weekend,” Eaton said.

Both applications and more information are available at http://www.annarborgivecamp.org/. The deadline for nonprofits to apply for help is July 31.

Last year 15 charities were helped through the efforts of 80 volunteers. They included educational, human service and arts organizations as well as a religious order and several animal rescue organizations.

“Ann Arbor GiveCamp changed the trajectory of our organization,” said Julia Zaher, director of volunteer services at Resource Genesee in Flint. “We were in desperate need of a new web site. We are the volunteer center and run an information and referral hotline for people in need of all kinds of help from food to health insurance. The web site built for us last year has made all the difference. Plus, I had a blast at GiveCamp.”

Participants can go home at night or can actually camp out for the weekend. Food and drink are provided. Charities receive training on how to use or update their new software and technical volunteers have no further obligation beyond the weekend.

“It’s a great opportunity for people to work together, develop new friendships and do something important for their community,” Eaton said.

(c) 2010, WWJ Newsradio 950. All rights reserved.

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