Wanting to help others who are sick, grieving or going through a tough time is a virtue of many in our communities. We feel the need to help when our friends or family members are going through a life-changing experience such as welcoming a new baby, caring for an aging parent or battling a serious medical disorder. But it is often difficult to know what to do and how to help.
Fortunately, in many cases, a family member, friend or neighbor steps up to organize meals, rides, visits or other assistance. The logistics for seeing that these offers of help are coordinated and fulfilled can be very time consuming and sometimes overwhelming. There are phone calls to solicit contributors, meal and delivery scheduling, food likes and dislikes to note, reminder calls to make, and other offers of help to coordinate. Let’s face it, no matter how grateful a family may be to have meals delivered, four straight nights of lasagna or chicken can be stretching anyone’s palate.
The Internet may help make these tasks simpler. Interactive websites can tame the logistics of getting a group of people together to help someone in the neighborhood, or to assist a family in the community or a member of a religious group. Michael Laramee, co-founder of mealtrain.com, created a scheduling and organizing website that makes meal planning for others easier. Commenting about his site’s origin, he says, “I saw my wife struggling with organizing meals for a friend. She was making phone calls, leaving voice mails, missing callbacks, sending texts and e-mails, creating spreadsheets and charts. It was very time consuming and frustrating for her. I thought, ‘There has to be a better way.’”
“Now there is a way to make it so much easier,” notes Laramee. Mealtrain.com and others like it (takethemameal.com, carecalendar.org) allow you to set up an interactive online meal calendar for no charge. Friends who are interested in preparing meals can log in to the link, view the recipient’s dietary restrictions, the dates and delivery times that are available, and sign up to bring a meal. A generated e-mail tells the recipient who will be delivering the meal, what food to expect and the day and time of delivery. It also sends reminder emails to the volunteers.
Mealtrain plus takes the website’s aids a step further. This premium version, which has a small fee, allows scheduling additional assistance such as transportation to appointments, child care, lawn care and home or hospital visits. Many churches find these meal calendar websites beneficial to organizing and expanding their community outreach ministries.
Takethemameal.com not only provides the same type of scheduling as described above, but out-of-towners can contribute a meal through their online “send them a meal” option available in many states. Gourmet meal delivery is also available at sendameal.com.
Pleasebringit.com is an efficient and fun way to coordinate a potluck, a neighborhood get-together, or a large family gathering. The site provides party ideas, invitation templates and online signup sheets. Schools can also use these online signup sheets to organize parent volunteers for events, classroom duties and field trips.
Explore the net and you’ll be surprised at the helpful websites you will find. Most are user-friendly and offer tutorials to get you started; many are free of charge. Once you begin exploring these organizing options, you’ll find it easier to gather a group together to lend a helping hand, or to solicit and schedule volunteers for an event. The answer to, “What can I do to help?” may simply be a website away.
Organizing websites worth a click