Monday, February 9, 2009

Lotsa Helping Hands

In the first few weeks of what became Steve's cancer diagnosis, we were flooded with offers of help.

Under most circumstances, I can juggle multiple tasks and organize multiple events without even a calendar or notebook. I thrive when planning and executing big projects.

But I was at a loss on how to manage our needs and the folks who wanted to help. Our circles were colliding -- church, neighborhood, school, work, old friends, family. My most important priorities were to take care of Steve and the kids. Coordinating volunteers was more than I could handle.

Two friends suggested Lotsa Helping Hands, a free online calendar tool that allows a family in need to post requests that can then be filled by friends who are registered within that community.

After Julie and I established the Damm Family Helpers community, I felt an instant burden lifted. I didn't have to worry that maybe two different friends were delivering dinner for the same night. I didn't have to spend time e-mailing or calling for help for a specific task.

Within just a couple of days, more than 100 people had logged in. We had an immediate network of folks to help with meals, driving Steve to and from daily radiation treatments, driving Steve to and from work, light housework and more.

There are now 186 members who can log in at any time to see what help we might need.

There are some quirks with the site that can be frustrating for the administrator, but those complaints are minor compared with the greater benefits.

I can e-mail all the Helping Hands volunteers at once or choose just a few. I can set requests for weeks and months in advance. I can use the site to retrieve contact information for any volunteer. Some families use the site as a way to make announcements or updates on health conditions.

I can't imagine how we would have survived the past year without Lotsa Helping Hands, and we continue to rely on it weekly.

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