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Student Team Cooks Up Web Site for Soup Kitchen

Danielle Little, Professor Wil Gorr, Panote Preechyanud, Gabriela Bermudez, and Jamilah Moon designed a Web site for the Jubilee Soup Kitchen that highlights volunteer opportunities going way beyond serving soup.

Ways to volunteer at a local soup kitchen:

  1. make soup
  2. serve soup
  3. build a Web site

If you look just beyond the obvious, there are countless ways to volunteer at a soup kitchen, and the first step is realizing that they don't merely serve soup. A team of four Carnegie Mellon students and their faculty advisor did just that, and teamed up with Jubilee Soup Kitchen in Downtown Pittsburgh to create a Web site for the unique organization — a site that puts the many and various volunteer opportunities front and center, so the rest of us have a bit of help finding our volunteer niche.

Heinz School students Gabriela Bermudez, Jamilah Moon, Danielle Little and Panote Preechyanud, along with Wil Gorr, professor of public policy and management information systems, responded to a request from Jubilee's staff and decided to build a Web site for the organization—from scratch. They worked closely with Sister Liguori Rossner, Father Paul Cwynar and the rest of the staff to create

"I think the most important thing I learned is to get involved in the work you are doing," Little said. "We could have sent Jubilee an email and a series of questions, then delivered the final project at the end of the semester. Instead, we made several visits and talked about the vision Jubilee had for the Web site. This allowed us a much greater understanding of our project, plus an opportunity to learn about a wonderful organization."

The only Pittsburgh area soup kitchen that is open 365 days a year, Jubilee offers services that range from soup kitchen and food pantry to an adult education center, medial clinic, family center, job corner, after-school program and prisoner reentry program.

After working with the staff to understand their needs and expectations, benchmarking other successful sites, exploring style, format and design options, taking photos and building the actual site, the team's final product is paying off.

All-Pak, a package distributor headquartered in Bridgeville, Pa., agreed to pay all expenses for this year's Annual Jubilee Soup Kitchen 2K Walk and 5K Run, Jubilee's biggest fundraiser. The $5,000 donation came after the sponsor read-up about Jubilee on its Web site.

"When the owner was approached by employees to underwrite the race — several ran last year and really enjoyed it — he didn't know anything about the Jubilee Soup Kitchen," said race organizer Warren Smith. "I had him log on to the Web site and he was very impressed with the organization. That closed the deal. Wil and his students have really made a difference."

Jubilee, which does not use government funds, organizes the annual race to raise money for their operations. In 2003, the first year that the race was held, the event brought in about $1,000. Last year more than 350 people participated and raised roughly $7,500 for the organization. Staff members hope that the Web site will continue to help in raising funds.

"I think the Web site will help in this process, in making the race our premier event," said Sister Rossner. "The Web site has already helped in regards to finding a larger audience, opening up some new avenues for us. The students at Carnegie Mellon have done a great service for us and should be commended for their work."

As project advisor, Gorr is proud of his students and proud of the outcome.

"A project like this is great because we've taken some tools and organizational skills that the students learn here in the Heinz School, and went to a real live external organization and did the whole thing, from beginning to end with a successfully implemented project," said Gorr. "We were able to take a project that was close to our hearts, make it a good educational experience and bring it to closure. And it's ongoing. It will keep going."

Jenni King
May 30, 2006

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