WAXAHACHIE

The Waxahachie Project celebrated a monumental moment with the “Make a Difference” launch of two major websites that could assist people to find local services and connect volunteers with opportunities.

About 150 people gathered at Freedom Fellowship International Church in Waxahachie to celebrate the launch and hear from those who spearheaded the sites and the impact the platforms could instill.

One of the directors of The Waxahachie Project, Andy Lehmann, stood on stage and quickly spewed the events that lead to the official launch on Wednesday.

After 300 Southwestern Assembly of God University students conducted 38 pages of research, The Waxahachie Project established two sites to serve needs brought up by community leaders, businesses, churches and residents.

“What we found out was this — the two top concerns identified were community awareness and engagement,” Lehmann noted. “We heard from leaders of the city say, ‘Hey, nobody knows what I do or the services that I offer. I don’t know how volunteers can connect with me or how I can connect with others.’”

Lehmann shared these same questions were brought up by business leaders, nonprofits and churches across the board.

The two websites are helpfinder.org and volunteerelliscounty.org. The two task forces that worked diligently on these projects for the past year and a half were the resident engagement and volunteer mobilization.

HELP FINDER

Cory Lucas, the director of Mission 75165 and who lead the resident engagement task force, introduced helpfinder.org to the crowd.

“Helpfinder.org. What is that? It’s a place where you can go and get help. You can find the resources that are available to you. And here’s the deal, there’s free resources, reduced-cost resources and they are just available,” Lucas explained.

The website was designed to benefit people in need, leaders who serve and neighbors who care.

So far, 67 entities in Waxahachie have provided up-to-date information on helpfinder.org. That number excludes national, government, state and county services that are already included in the platform.

Once logged on to the website, a visitor will type in his or her zip code and several services show available in the blue taskbar. The categories include food, housing and transit, goods, health, money, care, education, work, legal and relational. Each group consists of a drop-down menu.

After Lucas described the functionality of the website, he Skyped a nonprofit that benefits from the site — FirstLook Clinic. FirstLook CEO Donna Young and campaign manager Julie Sides expressed how the accessibility of the website will help guide more people in need.

VOLUNTEER ELLIS COUNTY

Next on stage was Casey Ballard, Executive Director of United Way of West Ellis County and who led the volunteer mobilization task force, which aided in the creation of volunteerelliscounty.org.

“We didn’t have to dig very deep to know that our greatest strength was the people in our community that want to get involved, to be connected and want to be engaged. One of our problems was, they didn’t know how to find opportunities,” Ballard explained.

The one-stop shop for volunteerism currently encompasses 54 Ellis County-based agencies with over 80 opportunities.

“Eighty might not seem like a lot, but some of those opportunities could serve 20 people at a time,” Ballard elaborated. “So that 80 is an exponential number of volunteer opportunities for our community and this is only the starting point.”

To discuss the impact of volunteerelliscounty.org further was Wilemon STEAM Academy Principal Kate Authier and Mark Miller, the missions pastor for The Avenue Church. The two joined the celebration via Skype as well.

Authier explained how the community and church members of The Avenue gathered at Wilemon to conduct outdoor renovations. Authier shared the newest volunteer opportunity available at Wilemon that’s posted on the volunteerelliscounty.org website.

“We have makerspaces on our campus and this is a great opportunity for our community and business partners to volunteer on a regular basis,” Authier said.

On that note, Ballard expressed how the volunteer opportunities on the site range from on-going experiences to a one-time occasion to being a mentor to hosting a donations drive.

The website was designed to benefit business, churches and schools looking to increase community engagement. Also, the site was created to benefit individuals and families who want to make a difference.

“Businesses,” Ballard stated. “We are seeing study after study that tells us businesses who allow their employee to have a place to serve, really do something they are passionate about increases not only productivity in the workplace but increases overall employee morale.”

Andy took the stage once again to deliver one final message before the community launch.

“Can I remind us that this is not only about websites? That’s why we are going out to these organizations. Websites are a dime a dozen but people matter and so really what we are talking about here is people and making a difference in their lives.”

Then together as a group, members in the crowd launched the website from their Facebooks accounts by simply sharing the post on The Waxahachie Project Facebook.

To share volunteer opportunities, non-profits can head to VolunteerEllisCounty.org and follow the link “Click here to register your organization.” Also, to promote the free or reduced cost services offered, an individual can head to HelpFinder.org and follow the link “Get Started.”

To learn more about The Waxahachie Project, log onto thewaxahachieproject.org. Or visit the two newly launched sites helpfinder.org and volunteerelliscounty.org.

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450