By Ed Brock
David Allman got his idea for the United in Service program from a need voiced at a chamber of commerce meeting in September.
It was Annette Lee with the Feed My People ministry in Stockbridge who stood up and told those assembled about the problem. Lee wanted some way of knowing if a person who came to her organization had already been helped by another agency. Also, she wanted a way to know if another agency could provide help that her agency could not.
So Allman, who owns a software and Web site development business, decided to help solve Lee's problem.
"What we've designed is a computer database so non-profit organizations in the Southern Crescent area can log on and enter information on their clients," said Allman, who lives in Lake City.
Allman also built a Web site, www.unitedinservice.org, that includes a calendar of events the member organizations are holding and a list of members.
The result is a multi-layered response to the database members' needs.
On the first point, Allman said there are people who take advantage of the system by going from organization to organization collecting similar donations. For example, they ask several agencies for help with a bill and end up with enough money to pay the bill and more, or they say they need clothes and then collect enough clothes for a yard sale.
"It's not all the people (who use the agencies). But it's enough so that, because it's non-profits and they can't afford to do that," Allman said.
With United in Service, the members can check the database and possibly catch such people in the act.
At the same time, the database can help those who don't ask for enough by informing the members about assistance available at other agencies. Some people may come in for help with a phone bill, but don't think to ask for help with groceries.
"People are embarrassed about asking for things, it's just human nature," Allman said.
Lee has been pleased with Allman's work. She's most happy about solving the second problem of finding more aid for those who need it, and providing more help.
For example, she is about to receive 12 pallets of salad for her food pantry that she hopes to share with other agencies.
"We can just put that out on United in Service and those who are partners know to come get salad without me or a volunteer being on the phone for an hour," Lee said.
The calendar is the best part of the service for Annette Wright, founder and CEO of the Ordinary People Inc. ministry. After learning of the service from Lee, Wright saw it as a way to let people in the community know about upcoming events they hold and their weekly broadcast every Wednesday at 7 a.m. on Atlanta Interfaith Broadcast Network.
"Sometimes when you're starting a ministry you don't have the resources to go to the larger media outlet," Wright said.
Wright also said she could use the database to do research on recognizing the works of outstanding people in the community.
All these different ministries are parts of "the body of Jesus Christ," Lee said, and they have to start working together.
"United in Service is the technology part of what we're trying to accomplish," Lee said.
And she praised Allman for his work in putting the Web site and databank together.
"That man has taken a lot of money out of his own pocket to do this," Lee said.
Allman said the databank is still in the works and he hopes to have it up and running in the next three weeks or so. He's also looking for businesses to partner with who can help finance the program.
Other United in Service members include The Good Shepherd Clinic in Morrow, the Global Empowerment Center, Omega's House and House of Refuge Ministries.
Call (404) 228-3092 or see the Web site for information on joining United in Service.