# Monday, 18 March 2013
# Friday, 02 September 2011

I've lost count of the number of Give Camps in which I've participated. I've been on planning committees, found sponsorships, worked as a developer, and led a team. I've worked all night at some Give Camps and left halfway through the weekend at others. One year, I didn't register for the Lansing Give Camp, but showed up Saturday afternoon for a couple hours while my kids were at a basketball game. I was placed on a team and did some database work while I was there. I've participated in Give Camps in Ann Arbor, Lansing, and Grand Rapids. I've slept on the floor; I've slept on the couches at friends' houses; and I've gone without sleep.

I keep coming back for two reasons: The good it does others and the good it does me.

A Give Camp does a lot of good work for a lot of charities and that makes me feel good about myself. Hundreds of charities have been helped just by the Give Camps in Michigan alone. At the closing ceremony, as we hand over the finished product, it's not uncommon to see charity representatives cry when they see what they have received. Some of them are amazed by what people are willing to give them for free.

I also love the opportunity to learn at a Give Camp. I've learned how to build applications using CMS tools, such as DotNetNuke and SiteFinity; I've learned how to use JavaScript to manipulate images on a web page; and I've learned some of the subtleties of migrating a web site from one host to another. I've even learned things unrelated t the projects on which we were working. That's what happens when smart, passionate people get together. The wonderful thing about a Give Camp is that it brings together people of different experiences.

The concept of a Give Camp is simple: A bunch of developers and designers and DBAs get together for a weekend and write software for a bunch of charities. In most cases, this software is a new web site; but sometimes, a charity needs an application to maintain a list of donors or schedule events or some other custom functionality. These charities have limited resources and hiring a consultant is often beyond their budget.

The next Give Camp in Michigan is September 17-19 in Ann Arbor. Sign up as a volunteer if you want to help others or you want to learn something or you want to connect with others who are passionate about technology.

Sign up today at http://annarborgivecamp.org/Volunteer.

What have you got to lose? Except a bit of sleep.

Friday, 02 September 2011 18:25:40 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 27 December 2010

Episode 131

Ann Arbor Give Camp

Monday, 27 December 2010 11:02:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Episode 61

Chris Woodruff organized the 2009 Grand Rapids Give Camp which helped dozens of charities with software projects. On the final day of the Give Camp, Chris sat down with us to describe what went into the camp and what was accomplished.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009 06:25:04 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, 17 November 2009

By any measure, this past weekend's Grand Rapids Give Camp was a big success.

Over 70 volunteers worked at the Grand Rapids YMCA to build software projects for dozens of charities. Most of the volunteers were technical people - Developers, Database Administrators and Designers - but some came to assist with the logistics. In additions, local companies provided food, drink, facilities, giveaways.

Projects ranged from new web sites to automated contact management systems. Chris Woodruff, who coordinated the event was impressed with the quality of the work he saw. "We have such a great technical community, so (getting volunteers) was the easiest part," said Woodruff. When it was all over, the charity representatives were happy and several declared that the delivery exceeded their expectations.

Speaking commitments and family emergencies have kept me from fully engaging in past Give Camps, so this was the first one in which I contributed the entire weekend. My team created a web site for the Kent County 4-H Council, which they can easily update without hiring a technical resource. You can see the site at http://kentcounty4hcouncil.com/.

Woodruff is already thinking about next year's event, which will likely be held in July on the same weekend as a similar event in ann arbor.

More photos

Tuesday, 17 November 2009 12:40:01 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, 03 May 2009

They ran their final unit tests, checked in their code and wiped the sleep from their eyes before lumbering up the basement steps into the museum.

They had been designing, coding and testing for almost two straight days - some with only a few hours sleep; some with no sleep. Many had brought sleeping bags and had slept in the museum.  A mid-afternoon power outage had slowed them down and drove them from the museum basement, but it did not stop them.

Up the steps, at the other end of the museum, was the closing ceremony.  Here, everyone quickly re-energized.  They saw demos of the applications everyone had built.  They saw the gratitude of the charities, who could not have afforded to pay for this software.  They felt the accomplishment won of hard work and perseverance.

The Lansing Give Camp was held in the basement of the Impression 5 Science Center (except for Saturday afternoon, when a power outage forced everyone to find a new place to work for a few hours) and helped out thirteen capital-area charities.  Teams of developers, designers and DBAs worked through the weekend to write custom software for each charity. 

Organizers Jeff & Carla McWherter and Jay & Amy Harris worked the longest.  Weeks in advance, they began recruiting software professionals, securing a location, finding sponsors and vetting charity requests.  On Friday, they arrived hours before everyone else.  They bought food, set up work areas and made sure the network was in place to allow everyone to be productive when they arrived.

Many volunteers got something out of the Give Camp as well.  Amy Harris told of a college student she met, who said he learned more this weekend than in any of his classes.

In the end, Jeff McWherter called the event a success because the charities were happy.  But he was quick to point out it is not over.  Many developers maintain a relationship with these charities and continue to enhance the applications they wrote.

But on this Sunday evening - as the closing ceremonies ended and appreciation was drowsily accepted - the volunteers headed off for home seeking hot showers and clean sheets.

Until next year.

Sunday, 03 May 2009 13:05:17 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Episode 19

The Lansing Give Camp April 24-26 helped over a dozen charities. 

After months of preparation and a weekend with almost no sleep, Jeff & Carla McWherter and Jay & Amy Harris still had enough energy to talk about what made this event so successful.

8 mins, 43 secs

Wednesday, 29 April 2009 11:43:07 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)