Our History

Using E-mail List, Shulock Finds 3,000 Volunteers

Monday, November 5, 2001

Her easygoing trendy life in Manhattan forever transformed on Sept. 11, an unemployed dot-com writer places her e-mail list and her technological savvy in the service of the Red Cross and other agencies providing disaster relief.

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Working her way into the Web-based world, Shulock landed tech consulting jobs for Knowledge Strategies and acted as managing editor for Web Digest for Marketers. She also co-authored a paper-based book, "Essential Business Tactics for the Net," now in a second edition.

Now, she is consumed by running her Web-based volunteer placement service. The need to connect volunteers with needs remains a daunting task.

"I was working 16-hour days, seven days a week," she said. "The past five weeks have just been a blur."

Many of Shulock's volunteers have been entering the information on paper into computerized databases: missing person's reports, donation contacts and volunteer information. Others have made electronic files for the thousands of e-mails sent to the Red Cross, so that the ones sending prayers and thank-you notes could be separated from those offering more practical assistance, including individuals and corporations wishing to donate time, money or machinery.

When the 30-something Webgrrl realized her resources outstripped the need, she called a friend, Alison Flemming, president of The Hired Guns Inc., an agency providing technical support to companies. The two put their lists together and soon volunteer sign-up via the Web was running twenty-four-seven.

Matching Volunteers to Charities, Police and Fire Departments

Shulock and Flemming teamed up with other tech companies in the city and the result was Silicon Alley Cares, a volunteer and benefit site supported by a consortium of individuals, companies and organizations. They provide assistance, volunteer information and a Web site to gather and distribute relief information.

"E-mail is great because it's so immediate," says Shulock. "We can have tech people down at relief sites with an hour's notice."

Her client list now also includes the Salvation Army and the New York fire and police departments. With the urgent need to feed relief volunteers, Shulock also hooked up Chefs With Spirit, a relief organization, to the Internet.

Despite abandoning a job search to assist the rescue effort, Shulock may still be on the cutting edge--but in a very different world. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space, has called for a communications infrastructure, a technical equivalent to the National Guard, so that communications can be assured during national emergencies.

If Wyden's beliefs catch on, Shulock may find herself in the forefront of assisting in the creation of such an emergency communications system.

Meanwhile, she may have to return to filling that paper-based calendar and networking with colleagues on her own behalf.

"I believe that things happen for a reason. Maybe that's why I was unemployed at the time. I can't imagine what would have happened if we weren't there. But now I have to look for a job," she says, with a rueful smile. Shulock is planning to pursue her media writing and e-commerce site building and consulting.


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Maya Dollarhide is a free-lance writer in Brookyn, New York. She has written for the Daily News, Beliefnet.com and New York magazine. She has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.


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