The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted our economy in countless ways. Even the missions of some businesses and nonprofits have changed, if temporarily. In the early months of the COVID-19 crisis, Family First Renton’s mission shifted from fundraising for a community center to delivering food to people in need. They had a lot of food to deliver and many families in need throughout the Greater Seattle area.

Family First Renton was a recipient of Zipwhip’s free texting for nonprofits on the frontlines program. Zipwhip’s texting app was instrumental to the organization’s emergency food outreach efforts. ZipTV spoke with Family First Renton Volunteer, Loomis Hamilton, who describes how he used Zipwhip texting to dispatch drivers and coordinate the delivery of food. He details the way he used popular features like Auto-Replies and text Templates.

Video transcript:

Keith Hitchcock: Tell me what Family First does.

Loomis Hamilton: So, Family First is actually a community center, Family First Renton. They’re really focused on building a community center in Renton and working with the city of Renton to do that.

Keith Hitchcock: That was the before. So, what happened when COVID rolled in.

Loomis Hamilton: Once COVID started happening everything kind of changed. They really shifted from the community center idea to helping out people in the community that needed it, elderly people to low income people, people who needed it either because they couldn’t go outside or couldn’t afford to because they had lost work. So, my specific role has been more dispatching, coordinating pickup and delivery of food, coordinating volunteer drivers. And then I coordinate that we’ve delivered it on the other end.

Keith Hitchcock: I’m sure there have been some learnings and specific challenges that have come up during this time. What are some of those?

Loomis Hamilton: Well, it’s really difficult to communicate with 260 plus people just on the driving side alone and keep that all organized. And I think if I was I was trying to do this over the phone or really just on my own personal phone, it would be a complete nightmare. Fortunately, Zipwhip was really helpful in lending services to us because I was able to use the mobile app but also use it on my computer. So, while working my full-time job, I was able to do that.

Keith Hitchcock: You’ve been using Zipwhip texting. How have you been using it?

Loomis Hamilton: So, I mostly use it to communicate with drivers, dispatching out jobs, letting them know, “hey this is where you’re picking up”; “This is where you’ll be delivering.” And then we also, on the other side of that, we have drivers letting us know when they’ve dropped stuff off and not just doing that with saying, “hey, I’m done.” Which, you know, when we’re dealing with this kind of stuff mostly, we want to just make sure that we’re actually delivering to the right place but also just to make sure that it does get delivered. And so I had drivers actually send me a picture message. And so I can now go through every single one of them. I have all the photos I’ve taken for proof.

Loomis Hamilton: It’s actually been really pretty easy because I can just type on my keyboard, my work keyboard. I am able to really communicate effectively with both people and do it quickly. So yeah, it’s been really helpful. You know, using some of the other tools that Zipwhip has: the Automatic Replies were really helpful, too, just because I knew there was no way I was going to get to everybody in that quick of a time so being able to just have messages for different things was really, really helpful. And of course the off hour times where I’m not going to respond to a text message. It was just nice for people to know that we knew that they had reached out.

Keith Hitchcock: What are some other features that have been helpful?

Loomis Hamilton: The templates, because being able to have my general things like, “Hey, we’ll be picking up from blank” and then I just fill in the stuff with kind of a copy-paste was really helpful. It saved me a ton of time, and it took a lot of my mental effort out of it.

Loomis Hamilton: People have their different thoughts on all the different communication forms, but you know I think that from what I was able to do with Zipwhip texting and being a one-man team on the dispatch side and all the coordination that I did I wouldn’t have been able to do it without texting and specifically the Zipwhip technology that I have. It was huge. And I think it’s just another way for people to get in touch. You know if we’re cutting that out you’re going to miss people.

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