Food: it nourishes our bodies, brings families and friends together, and helps us to celebrate our culture and heritage. Most of us take food for granted, especially if we never have to worry about having enough of it on the table. But at Second Helpings, a downtown Indianapolis nonprofit, food is a powerful tool for eliminating hunger and unemployment.

Jennifer Vigran, CEO of Second Helpings, says that the mission of Second Helpings is “transforming lives through the power of food.” The organization was founded in the spring of 1998 by three chefs who witnessed all the food that was wasted in the food service industry. Twenty years later, the organization rescues 200,000 pounds of food a month from restaurants, hotels, and events and turns that food into nutritious meals that go to over 80 local service organizations. They also offer a free 7-week culinary training program for under- or unemployed adults to help them gain the skills necessary to enter the food industry.

Since 1998, Second Helpings has rescued over 43 million pounds of food from thousands of donors. Maintaining relationships with donors and analyzing donation trends is crucial for Second Helpings to continue to grow. However, data about donations and donors is fundamental for accomplishing these goals, and this data has been stored in several inconsistent spreadsheets over the past twenty years. So when Jennifer the CEO or Mike Eline the CFO receive a call from a donor and want to look back into their historical data, it requires an arduous process involving different spreadsheets formatted different ways.

That’s where netlogx came in. Nick Taylor, the Outreach Manager and co-Executive of netlogx, has been involved with Second Helpings for a while. “When I came here I was just absolutely flummoxed by incredible, vibrant energy is here in these people; this mission is unbelievable,” Nick says. “Just to be a tiny little part of that is so uplifting

[…] it’s the kind of thing that really matters.” Nick has shown his dedication to the cause by becoming a volunteer delivery driver and a financial donor, but he was ready to commit to a long-term relationship with Second Helpings by setting a precedent for intern projects for the organization every year, 2017 being the first.

So the four summer interns, Trent, Brendan, Emil, and I, embarked on a mission to consolidate the data and upload it into Salesforce, a Customer Relationship Management software. This required getting the data into one spreadsheet with standard naming conventions and eliminating any inconsistencies, as well as gaining an understanding of Salesforce uploads. We also added other initiatives along the way, such as conducting address verification for all the contacts in Salesforce, making work instructions for future uploads, and creating a video showcasing our work on the project. The project was not without its share of challenges and mistakes, from using the wrong Salesforce loader and inconsistent account IDs, to rushing to create video release forms and having half our video editing progress erased.

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Sometimes it was easy to get lost in all hours of spreadsheets or phone calls with customer service and forget about the bigger picture. But hearing Jen and Mike rave about how much easier their lives will be with all their data in one place made it all worth it. Not only will the project give Jen, Mike, and the rest of the Second Helpings staff back critical time in their workdays, but it will solve one of the major operational challenges facing Second Helpings. This will allow them to serve all of their patrons more effectively, making an even larger impact in eliminating hunger in the Indianapolis area.

The goal was always for Second Helpings to benefit from the project, but the intern team benefited a lot too. We had to figure out the nitty-gritty of Salesforce and Excel, manage a project for a client, work directly with the CEO and CFO of a local business, film, edit, and publish a video, create original documents on the fly, and tackle a whole lot of data before the end of the summer. All of this left us with tons of experience and lessons learned, both technical and professional.

In a final interview with Jennifer Vigran, Emil asked if she had any final thoughts or comments to add. All she had to say was “Thank You!” with a big smile. But truly, we should be the ones saying thank you. So a huge thank you to both netlogx and Second Helpings, for an unforgettable summer full of lessons learned and experiences gained, and the opportunity to be one small part of an incredible mission.

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Additional thanks to Nick Taylor, Diane Walton, Kevin Olson, Jennifer Vigran, Mike Eline, Rob Peoni, and anyone else who helped along the way.