How can we help?
As the scope and scale of the coronavirus crisis became increasingly apparent over the first couple weeks of March I, like many others, found myself grappling with this question. Living in the first US epicenter of the crisis, the reality hit us here in Seattle earlier than other cities and states. Even before we truly understood the magnitude of what we were dealing with, I knew that I didn’t want to spend my isolation wallowing in anxiety. I wanted to find a positive outlet for that energy; a project that would harness my skills and have a concrete impact.
So when the Schultz Family Foundation reached out to us in late March about a project to help one of our hardest hit communities affected by coronavirus, I and many others on the Amperity team jumped at the opportunity. Giving back is a foundational value enshrined in our culture, embraced by senior leadership, and codified in the Amperity Cares program. Up and down the management chain we got green lights and encouragement to jump in, even if it meant moving some of our other responsibilities to the back burner.
The following eleven days turned into a frenetic effort to define the project, solidify partnerships, align on a workflow, and create an entire brand and marketing campaign. By April 1st the project had a name and a mission: The Plate Fund would be a donor-funded project to give immediate direct cash transfers to restaurant-industry workers in King County who lost income as a result of the coronavirus response. Another partner organization, UpTogether, was lined up to handle the applications, but the project needed a website. That’s where myself and a team of 10+ Ampers stepped in. (Huge shout out and thanks to Camden Clark, Diane Ha, Colin Lappala, Cary Lee, Gavin Look, Josh Parsons, Chuck Sakoda, Jake Shorty, Derek Slager, and Jeff Stokes, and to all of our teammates who helped catch the balls we dropped while working on this!)
Thanks to some long night-and-weekend efforts we built the site (www.theplatefund.com) from scratch in around four days, with full support for mobile and even a Spanish translation. It launched on Monday, April 6th and had over 30,000 unique visitors in the first 24 hours. More importantly, over 1700 people applied for assistance totaling over $850K of immediate money transfers. There is a long road ahead for these folks (and many others), but hopefully these payments can bridge the gap between the time workers received their last paychecks and the time they can access government-provided payments and benefits. For some, this may be the only money they receive.
I don’t want to overstate our contribution: we just built one little website, to help one affected population, in one midsize county. The whole world is reeling right now and the needs are almost too huge and innumerable to fathom. But this is a step forward. And I’m glad we were a part of it.
If you’ve read this far, I’ll end with the following requests:
- If you have the means, please donate to The Plate Fund!
- If you know of other projects where a bunch of cloud computing engineers and data nerds could help, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Don’t succumb to fear and helplessness. Find something you can do, no matter how small, and take that step. The only way out is through.
Stay home, stay safe, and let’s overcome this the only we can - together!