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myLNK app

Shayne Pearson, program director for The Bay, demonstrates the myLNK app on Jan. 31. The app offers a mobile database of community services in Lincoln and Lancaster County.

GWYNETH ROBERTS, Journal Star

In times of struggle, it can take a lot of resources from different agencies to get a person back on their feet. 

But where does one find the best agency to fit individual needs? And when does one have the time?

These questions plagued a group of nine people in Leadership Lincoln's 32nd Fellows class.

Participants in the nonprofit organization's Fellows program learn about community service, leadership and engagement over the course of a year, meeting once a month. This time, they were divided into groups and tasked with producing a community service project.

One of those projects is now servicing almost 700 people and helping them find resources they need.

The myLNK app provides a mobile database of community services in Lincoln and Lancaster County. The app is free, easy-to-use and is consistently updated with accurate information.

The idea for the app came from a meeting at the beginning of the 2016-17 year. 

Bryan Seck pitched the idea of an app listing services for people in need.

Seck had previously served as the Homeless Outreach Specialist for Lincoln Public Schools, where he used two different resource handbooks — one from the state Department of Health and Human Services and one from the Center For People in Need in Lincoln.

But what Seck found was that many families he worked with didn't know the handbooks existed, and therefore weren't finding the services they needed.

"What I realized is, that families in trauma lose everything, but they don't lose their phones," he said. "A phone is a lifeline. It's how you call about a job interview or the nurse at schools calls to tell you your kid has an ear infection."

Fellow group members Amanda Crume, Ryan Hier, Jim Bopp, Mike Hodge, Jamie Harder, Matt Prokop, Corrine Sturdy and Katie Kock all wanted to go further with the idea. Seck said the group began working to solve the question of "how can we get these incredible resource books on families' phones?"

Their first step was to talk to HHS and the Center For People in Need for permission to use the handbooks.

Both agencies eagerly agreed.

"There are so many resources that are so great and people don't always know about them," said Beatty Brasch, executive director of the Center For People in Need. "We were happy when the group came to us with the idea, because the whole purpose is to help."

The Fellows combed through hundreds of pages of organization names and contact information and made sure the data was up-to-date to put on the app.

"We spent very much time going through the handbooks as a team," Seck said. "Fixing all the data, cleaning the data, really getting it right. We were very intentional."

Next, they needed someone to help develop the app. They turned to Haymarket company Don't Panic Labs.

The Don't Panic team assigned the project to its summer interns, who worked to create a user-friendly interface. They also made it so the app could be downloaded to a smartphone and then used offline without Wi-Fi — something not everyone has easy access to. 

"My personal goal in everything I do is to think about how can we meet families where they are," Seck said. "So if they have a phone but they don’t have a data plan, they can download the app at a store or something, (then they) can jump on it and see 27 places they can get free food for dinner that night."

The myLNK app offers different ways to search services, including a word-based search, agency search, categories of services and a calendar of regularly occurring events, such as food distribution and health services. It does not require the creation of an account, so users can remain anonymous.

The official version of the app launched Jan. 28 and has already been downloaded over 1,500 times, according to Seck.

Steve Sheridan, director of programs at the Center For People in Need, has already seen it pop up on the phones of people who come through the center.

"A phone is something a lot of our families do have even if they don't have anything else," he said. "It's a great way for them to get answers about resources that are available."

The Center For People in Need will also handle all update requests sent in through the app for the time being.

The group behind the app plans on training nonprofit organizations, service agencies, Lincoln Fire and Rescue, the Lincoln Police Department and first-responders on how to use the app, as well.

"We believe that just as many people who use the app will be people working at these nonprofits and agencies that help others," Seck said. "What I’m hoping comes from the app is that they can quickly find information about services in Lincoln to help their clients. For families, I hope that they can utilize the app to access services and learn about resources that they didn't even know existed."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7223 or hmuslic@journalstar.com.

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Reporting intern

Hana Muslic is a reporting intern.

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