HARKER HEIGHTS – If you ask most Americans, they would tell you volunteering is a good thing. Many considerate contributing to your local communities is the best way to make the world a better place. Unfortunately only one in four Americans actually set aside time on a regular basis to volunteer.
"I think if people would focus more on what they can do to help somebody else, a lot of the things that we deal with today, we wouldn't have to deal with probably,” said Master Sgt. Rodreques Lemon, founder of Helping Homeless in Killeen.
That is why Chip Franks of Harker Heights created Joe Volunteer. After listening to a marketing podcast about the idea of creating an app that notified volunteers of opportunities to help their neighbors in real time, Franks knew he had to build it.
"It was like a bolt of lightning came down and struck my soul and it just said do this. I went home and built a website for it. I did a business plan. We brainstormed the name on it as Joe Volunteer and had a good idea of what was going to happen,”
Right now, Joe Volunteer has a national Facebook Page and a local Joe Volunteer group in Killeen. Nursing homes, humane societies and non-profit organizations post their specific needs for volunteers and those willing to help respond.
"I jumped on Joe volunteer. I sent out a message and it spread like wildfire,” said Ken Cates, Executive Director of Fort Hood Habitat for Humanity.
Last weekend, his team expected to demolish a fire damaged home with 100 people but when the morning of the demolition arrived, only 9 volunteers showed up. One post to the Joe Volunteer Killeen Facebook group brought in several more in just a few hours
"We did with approximately 26 people thanks to Joe volunteer what started out with only nine, ended up with over 26 and we accomplished more than what we expected to get done with that 100 soldiers there,” said Cates.
"Right now we are posting opportunities or places to help other folks. It's not as efficient right now but that is about to change in a very profound way,” said Franks.
Next weekend, Joe Volunteer The App will launch in Austin allowing the power of the network to reach millions of smartphones. You simply chose the type of volunteer work you are interested in and within seconds a list of opportunities in your area are complied. Text alerts will tell you when an organization needs help and where. Franks compares it to a “Uber” for volunteers.
"It gives you a feed based on where you are. If you happen to be passing a nursing home on your way home and you have an extra 30 minutes or so then you can stop in and make someone's day better and
"Streamline. That is the first thing that popped into my head. Streamline,” said Master Sgt. Lemon.
After 3 years of feeding the homeless in Killeen, regular volunteers are now vital to keeping Helping Homeless in Killeen alive. Master Sgt. Lemon says Joe Volunteer will mean more time helping those who need it and less time begging for volunteers.
"My wife has a lot going on. We home school our kids, we have a church to run, we have the homeless organization to run so this app will make her life a lot easier,” said Master Sgt. Lemon.
Franks says they plan to test launch the Joe Volunteer app in Austin April 23rd. By the end of the year, they hope to have the app available in cities across the country. Their goal is to increase volunteerism in the U.S. tenfold thereby creating a better world for all of us.
"It's a great quirk of human nature that you cannot help someone else feel better without feeling better yourself,” said Franks. ?