Friday, April 17, 2009

Just Harvest explores Google Maps

They saw a need and created a tool to fix it. That is the basic description of how the Volunteer Pittsburgh Map was created by Just Harvest intern Lou Hanson and Americorps VISTA Brian Gilmore.

The function of the EARN program is to help Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) clients find placements where they can meet their work requirements for the program. When clients don’t meet the requirement, it hurts their assistance as well as the funding for the TANF program—even if clients are only short by an hour or two a week. After Just Harvest advocate Rochelle Jackson shared her concern about the program underutilizing volunteer opportunities that would help to fill those extra few hours, Lou and Brian got to work.

They decided a map would be the best tool for linking TANF clients with possible volunteer opportunities close to where they live and work. People also tend to be more willing to donate their time if it is supporting organizations in their community. After a few intensive weeks of internet searches, phone calls, and typing up information, the Volunteer Pittsburgh map was born.

The Google map tool is particularly helpful because it is interactive. Users can zoom in on their neighborhood, click on a colored placemark to get the site information, and even get a real image of the place by using the street view option. Sites are also color-coded so that users can search for sites that offer opportunities in their field of interest, such as medicine, education and environment.

This tool was so easy to use and so well-received by representatives of the EARN Centers that we decided to make another map to show Summer Food sites. Just like the Volunteer Pittsburgh map, users can zoom in on their neighborhood and find out where the closest summer food sites are where children and youth can receive breakfast, lunch, and snacks for free during the summer. Just click on a placemark to get the details of which meals are offered there and at what times.

We hope that these maps are helpful for you. Happy mapping!
- Lou Hanson, Just Harvest Intern

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