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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

IT Professionals Camp Out at WCC for Charity

Camping at a community college? Though classrooms and computer labs may not be a traditional camper’s idea of a fun summer weekend, they were the ideal place for 70 software developers, designers, and database administrators who donated their time to create custom software and websites for 14 non-profit organizations.

For the second consecutive year, from July 17-19 Washtenaw Community College hosted and co-sponsored Ann Arbor Give Camp in partnership with the local developer community, Microsoft, Domino’s Pizza, and Verio, a web hosting company.

“People came in from Arizona and Florida to witness or take part in the event here at WCC,” said Neil Gudsen, a WCC program manager. “The efforts of the volunteers to create software over the long weekend were truly remarkable, and their ability to organize, take direction, work with each other, and collaborate toward a common goal was superb and very inspirational.”

Give Camps are held in select locations across the country, and are growing in popularity as a way for IT professionals to give back to their communities.

The projects they develop might be a new website, a small custom data-collection application to keep track of members, or an application like the one developed for the Red Cross that automatically emails blood donors three months after they donate to remind them that they are eligible to donate again. The only limitation is that the project has to be completed in a weekend.   

“The Give Camp idea was hatched in January of 2008 by a group of volunteer software developers in Dallas and quickly gathered momentum,” explained Gudsen. “WCC was approached in May 2008 by developers from Michigan and Ohio who were interested in organizing an event in southeast Michigan. The first Give Camp in the region was held last July at the College.”  

For its part, Microsoft donated a gift bag of software and books for each charity, software giveaways for the developer volunteers, and funding for food. A team of the sponsors selected the non-profits, and developers came together as part of a community effort that was driven mainly by Twitter. WCC donated space for developers and non-profits to collaborate, as well as camping space and showering facilities for those wishing to stay on-site the entire weekend. Domino’s Pizza provided meals for the event. Verio will provide free website hosting until January 2010 for the non-profits that require hosting services.

Area non-profits that received help from Ann Arbor Give Camp 2009 include All About Animals Rescue, Closer to Home Animal Advocates, Community and Home Supports, Eisenhower Dance Ensemble, Great Sauk Trail Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Interfaith Hospitality Network at Alpha House, Lend A Helping Hand, Leslie Science and Nature Center, Resource Genesee, Sisters of Mary, Starting Over Airedale Rescue, Motivity, Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office, and Paula Ratchford Ministries.

Next year’s Camp is expected to be bigger and better, according to Gudsen. The number of charities is likely to double, on- and off-campus activities for the families of participants are in the works, and more local organizations will be involved.

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