By CRISTINA JANNEY
The United Way of Ellis County on Tuesday launched an app to highlight area resources.
United Way in the past had printed a paper guide to assist people in finding, nonprofit and government agencies.
However, Sherry Dryden, UWEC executive director, said the app, which is free for download now for Apple and Android devices, can be updated constantly.
“One of the main things was to have first-responders and social workers to have something at their fingertips instead of having to go to their office to a website or having to pull out a book out of their vehicle or briefcase that is outdated the minute that you print it,” she said.
The idea for the app came out of a series of meeting sponsored by the Dane G. Hansen Foundation called Strategic Doing. The meetings urged local residents to focus on needs and goals in their communities. Another series of meetings will be conducted in March.
The Heartland Community Foundation supported the creation of the app through a grant.
“The Heartland Community Foundation is very interested in technology in our rural communities, but the key word she uses is collaboration,” said Sandy Jacobs, Heartland Community Foundation executive director. “It is really important in communities of this size to bring people together from different backgrounds and different agendas and put together things that work. This is one of the most important things that has been done in the last numbers of years, and we are very proud to be associated with it.”
The app was created by Simply LLC, a technology firm in Hays.
Brandon Purdy, app designer, said he was unsure how useful the app would be until he started to use it himself.
“When you don’t know what you are looking for, you just know you need to find something in financial services and you want local, the app is really useful to find something that is local and not just something you are going to find on Google,” he said. “I see it going more places than I originally thought.”
More than 400 services, schools, government agencies and organizations are listed in the app.
The app allows you to search for services under categories, including child care services, communications specialists, community programs, counseling, disability and developmental services, drug and alcohol services, education resources and institutions, elderly resources, employment resources, family planning and support, financial resources, food programs, health services, housing resources, mental health, parenting resources, veterans resources, volunteer services, and youth programs.
The app gives phone numbers, addresses with maps and descriptions of the organizations.
The logo for the app looks like a life-preserver, because UWEC is trying to throw a lifeline to people, Dryden said.
“I think of the first responders who are called to something in the middle of the night and a family is needing some kind of service,” Dryden said. “They are able to go with this, get it off their phone, and be able to utilize that, and be able to get ahold [of someone] and get the family linked up to services they need.”
Although the app was made with first responders and social workers in mind, it can be used by anyone. Dryden used the examples of teachers, counselors, churches or business people.
You can still access an online version of the resources list at http://elliscountykshelp.com/. The United Way is working with USD 489 to develop a Spanish version of the list.
If your information needs to added or updated on the app, contact the United Way at 785-628-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Purdy said some bugs are still being worked out of the system. Although the app is available to download now, an Apple update is waiting for approval and should be available shortly. Contact the app administrator if you experience problems.