ATLANTA—Kaitlyn Bailey Wilson (M.S.W. ‘09) and Kirsten Thornate (M.S.W. ‘09) are bringing the interpersonal world of social work into the digital realm as representatives of the recently launched mobile app, Purposity, which connects people in need with those who can help.
Wilson, a social worker, can already see the app making a difference in the four Floyd County, Georgia, schools she serves.
“One of my girls is eighteen and providing for herself since her mother passed away recently,” Wilson said. “She needed warm winter clothes, so we picked out a jacket on Amazon, and I wrote a short story explaining her situation to publish on the app. Once it’s published, users click ‘meet need,’ and it’s filled. The jacket comes straight to me, and I give it to her.”
This streamlined process benefits social workers, too. According to Thornate, also a social worker and the homeless liaison for the Rome City School District, Purposity serves as a technological middleman, relieving the strain on social workers by matching donations with immediate needs.
“Often we have this incredibly generous community donating coats and shoes,” she said. “But it takes a tremendous amount of time to sort and store donations and we end up with stuff sitting around because no one needs it right then.”
Another benefit of Purposity is that its ease of connecting needs with donors does not come at the price of reduced privacy.
“Sending someone to the Salvation Army with donated money can feel embarrassing to some families,” Wilson said. “They have pride. But this way they just come to my office at school. I have a jacket here that I’m going to deliver to a student this afternoon.”
“They’ve been very thoughtful in the design of the app to make it user friendly, but also very protected,” Thornate agreed.
She also appreciates that the app requires human interaction. “I’m glad that I receive the item and get to hand it out to the recipients. I want them to understand that there are people on the other side of this interaction.”
Thornate envisions this understanding going both ways. “My hope is that through using Purposity, donors begin to understand the greater needs of the community. We can list clothes and shoes all day, and we do, but some of my favorite requests are quality-of-life enhancers for students—something like a diabetes cookbook for a recently diagnosed child whose parent is cooking on a budget, or a journal of writing prompts for a student who has been recognized as a talented writer—things that some parents can’t buy due to life circumstances.”
According to Wilson, close to 1,200 users in Floyd County have met over 500 needs since March 2019.
“Every day we’re getting requests for more stuff,” she said. “And now that more people know about it, they’re using it. I just want to keep the momentum going strong.”
Story by Sumar Deen, Student (M.S. Clinical Mental Health Counseling, ‘21)