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How a Group of Entrepreneurs and Volunteers Is Trying to Slow the Spread of COVID-19

The CEO of Helping Hands tells Jessica Abo how he's trying to slow the spread of COVID-19 through tech-enabled community volunteerism.

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When shelter-in-place orders went into effect, Jeff Miller knew he wanted to do something to help people. He started a platform called Helping Hands, leaning on the skills he acquired over the last decade while building two-sided marketplaces. Miller was the founding CEO of the peer-to-peer car-sharing platform Wheelz (now Turo). He also led business development for Uber's self-driving vehicle business unit.  

It was at Uber where he met Helping Hands' founding CTO Pedram Keyani, an engineer known for running the company's hackathons and who, prior to Uber, had built and run multi-disciplinary technical teams at Google and Facebook. Together, these two men figured out how to combine their entrepreneurial hustle and ability to move and build quickly with their experience building and operating at scale, to launch their nonprofit. 

"The purpose of Helping Hands is to slow the spread of COVID-19 through tech-enabled community volunteerism. It connects those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 — seniors citizens, people with pre-existing medical conditions or weakened immune systems — with community volunteers who can safely deliver critical items (like food medicine, or household goods) and provide various forms of assistance (like dog-walking, mail pick-ups or conversations)," he explained to Jessica Abo. "By facilitating these connections, we can help protect neighbors from contracting severe illness and each other from an overwhelmed healthcare system."

Miller says it has been incredible to see how many people have reached out and expressed interest in joining his community. "In just a few weeks, the core Helping Hands team has grown to more than 100 volunteers. It is a true multi-disciplinary team from around the world. We’re also seeing an outpouring of support from local communities. Individuals from across the country have signed up to volunteer, and community members with acute needs are getting them met through the platform. We’ve heard from dozens of other nonprofit and for-profit businesses across the U.S. and around the world who are interested in partnering with Helping Hands to supercharge their existing community efforts."

Helping Hands is available throughout the U.S. and works everywhere, as long as there are people raising their hands asking for help, and volunteers signed up willing to lend a hand. "As an organization, Helping Hands is supporting not only individuals directly, but partnering with a range of community organizations — city and county governments, mutual-aid organizations, churches, food banks, community groups — to help meet the needs of their constituents. Through collaboration we’re able to amplify the impact of our efforts," Miller says. 

Miller wants people to know if there is somebody in your life whether it be a parent, a relative, a friend, or a neighbor, who could use an extra hand right now, you can go to www.helpinghands.community and request help on their behalf. "If they live across the country, and you’re not able to help them directly, Helping Hands can be an especially great tool for you to ensure they’re taken care of," he says. 

Miller, who lives in San Francisco, has placed, and had multiple requests filled, for his immunocompromised mother who lives in Arizona. "If you’re healthy and able, sign up to be a volunteer. There is no doubt that people in your local community could you an extra set of hands right now," he added. 

Miller says if you are part of an organization that currently works with or serves populations who might be vulnerable to COVID-19, and you think their tech platform and tools could help, you can email them at partners@helpinghands.community. 

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