by Deona Hooper, MSW
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Erine Gray, creator and Founder, of Aunt Bertha. Aunt Bertha is a search engine for social welfare programs that is designed to help those in need find governmental or charitable programs. Aunt Bertha has been featured several times on Mashable.com for its innovation in using technical solutions for social good. Their latest article was entitled, “How One Website Connects Those in Need of Governmental Assistance“.
Could you describe your background/short bio?
I grew up in a small town in Western New York, and went to college at Indiana University where I studied Economics (and took several computer science classes). I became interested in public policy shortly after I became my disabled mother’s guardian in 2002. When that happened, I quit my job as a programmer and went back to grad school to get my Master’s in Public Affairs from the University of Texas. I spent the next six years helping governments better deliver on public services.
What is Aunt Bertha about and why did you think it was important to create?
Aunt Bertha picks up where Uncle Sam leaves off by making it easy for people to find and apply for government and charitable programs. In just a few seconds you can type in your zip code, and Aunt Bertha will tell you about government and charitable programs you qualify for.
What is your hopes for Aunt Bertha, and what do you need to improve it?
We’d like Aunt Bertha to be the wikipedia of social services so people in need and the people who help them can have a reliable way of finding and applying for services. To make this vision a reality, we need people to tell us about the programs they like and interact with the most. We’ll take care of the rest. Anybody can enter a program, it just takes a couple of seconds by filling out this form.
How did you come up with the name?
Aunt Bertha picks up where Uncle Sam leaves off. Everybody has someone in their family that they can go to that is a bit quirky, but has their best interests in mind. We wanted the experience to be fun, so we modeled it after someone we can all relate to. Aunt Bertha is someone you can go to when you’re in trouble, and she’ll always point you in the right direction.
What inspired “Here’s to Social Workers”?
We work with social workers every day. We realized how lucky we are to spend time with some of the most generous, caring people on earth. Social workers don’t get enough recognition, and we thought it’d be a good idea, in our little way, to help change that.
— Aunt Bertha (@AuntBertha) November 2, 2012
Aunt Bertha now has a mobile site that can be used on all smartphones with a browser. Just type http://www.auntbertha.com in your browser. We’re also looking to chat with folks that would like to bring Aunt Bertha to their town (it’s something we do for free). Reach out to me anytime (firstname.lastname@example.org).