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So a couple of weeks ago some guy on the corner was hawking his charity, and I stopped and listened for a bit because, well, he seemed nice enough, and it sounded like it might be interesting. Free medical and dental care. I need my wisdom teeth out. Hmm.

Coalition of Concerned Medical Professionals. So I take their pamphlets after the dude's lenghty explanation, put my name on something, offering to maybe help them with something somehow at some point, and walk on, forgetting about it.

They call me a few days later, and I wind up agreeing to go down and type up stuff for them.

I get there and get the apparently obligatory spew of why they exist and how they've come to exist and all that business, and eventually I get shown their computer and what needs to be typed up, and...

it's all really pathetic.

I hate to be thinking that, but that's what I'm thinking. There's two main folks holding fort for the oakland branch of the organization (second branch of the org, founded back in '76 or so), and they're scrabbling to pay the rent on their little shop. It's all-volunteer (they don't accept government money because they don't want government strings). They have piles and piles of filing cabinets, and nothing is quite where it's supposed to be.

Everything in the office has been donated... from folks, from businesses, businesses going out of business, etc.

And they're trying to modernize some by typing up their contact list so that folks can do mailers more easily.

They don't know what a database is. They don't really have a concept of what a website is, so far as I could tell. I spent six or eight hours typing up contact info, looking up addresses in the yellow and white pages. They don't have a net connection, so I can't use that... everything has to be done by hand.

I don't know why I'm helping them. Probably in the hope that my help can do some good. I'm going down on Monday to help them with their mailers. Part of me feels like if I help them at all, I should be helping them more--setting up a website, giving them an online presence, a program they could use for announcements and community and ... all that sort of stuff.

But part of me is afraid of committing to anything. I don't want to be locked into support. I don't want to put them on my server. I don't want to be responsible. and I wonder... how many other groups are there out there that could use that sort of help. (honestly, I don't know if they want it. I had trouble explaining it, offered to write up a proposal that they could show to their board-of-directors, which is what it would take... but that would be a lot of work, and... eh?)

are there services I could put them in touch with? I know of http://idealist.org, though I haven't looked to strongly into what they provide...

and, well, I dunno. I don't stand behind these folks 100%. I just think they should have more of a chance to get their voice out, and a better way of communicating and keeping track of stuff, and, and, and, and...

So, erm... I'm looking for ideas and thoughts, no matter how tangential. I'm not sure of what I'm doing. And that is that.

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