Volunteer Outreach Helps Washington Nonprofits Prepare for Y2K

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When technology consultants approached Angela Jones' nonprofit organization to offer their Year 2000 testing services, she turned them away. 'We simply couldn't afford their fees,' said Jones, who is executive director of DC Action for Children, a Washington, D.C., advocacy organization.

What's more, neither Jones nor any of her four co-workers knew enough about technology, their new office computers or those of their vendors to judge whether the prices the consultants were charging were fair.

Now concerned about Y2K, yet hoping to avoid quick scams and huge bills, Jones turned to the Y2K Buddy Project, a program created by the Leadership Council of the Metropolitan Washington Human Services Coalition that's designed to help local nonprofits prepare for the millennium.

As a result, Jones' organization has prepared its equipment for the date change and is on its way to confirming the readiness of the companies it deals with.

Here's how the Buddy Project works: Qualifying nonprofit organizations apply for help. The application is reviewed. If it is approved, a volunteer is assigned to that agency. The volunteer, who has undergone three hours of training, visits the agency to identify and resolve Y2K compliance issues.

Nonprofit human service agencies with budgets of less than $2.5 million qualify to be visited by a 'Y2K Buddy.' Organizations within the city that don't qualify for complete assistance -- either because of budget size or because they don't involve human services -- can send members of their staff to the Buddy Project's training program if they agree to serve as buddies to other agencies in exchange.

The program's volunteers are Washington, D.C., citizens like Christine Trafford who are looking for opportunities to help others. Trafford, a lawyer who has taken some computer programming classes, said the Buddy Project sounded more interesting to her than painting or picking up roadside trash. 'I thought it might be a good opportunity not only to give to the community but also to learn something in the process,' she said.

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