Perhaps, they are an unlikely pair.
But together the California lawyer and Georgia envelope distributor have managed to create a business that may just revolutionize the world of giving.
They have connected single parents and families struggling to carve out a living and make ends meet with people who want to help them stay afloat.
And they did it by creating a niche on the World Wide Web. Their business, GiveLocally.net, launched last year.
“It is an unusual concept,” said Michael Nelson, who is with the Association of Fundraising Professionals. “I’ve seen it with schools but I haven’t seen it done quite this way.”
Nelson, spokesman for the 30,000-member organization, said he has heard of teachers who put a list online requesting help in buying school supplies. But the concept behind GiveLocally and its expanded reach was quite unique.
“It’s certainly an interesting concept,” Nelson said. “It’s a personalized way of giving and people like that connection with the person they are giving to. They like to see the impact. I can see that working very well.”
The idea belongs to Brad Newman, a Silicon Valley lawyer who for more than a decade represented leaders who used technology to change lives.
Slowly, Newman began to formalize a plan to help people quickly, efficiently and transparently through the internet.
“I just wanted to help people and I just thought the internet would be a good way to do it,” Newman, 40, said. “It was away to have people give a little to help many.”
He did an early launch of GiveLocally in June. There were kinks to work out such as finding the right coding, developing a web presence and finding the right team.
He also needed a CEO. A friend suggested an Atlanta business man.
Newman had a habit of not checking backgrounds, preferring to size up someone in person. And, so he didn’t know much about the son of the famed Civil Rights Leader and former U.S. Congressman Andrew Young II.
Andrew “Bo” Young owns Young Solutions, Inc., a multimillion dollar company that sells envelopes to Fortune 500 companies. The husband and father came from an altruistic family.
When Bo Young was growing up, his family home in southwest Atlanta was always filled with foreign exchange students or college kids who didn’t have a place to stay and who had no place to go for the holidays.
“During my whole childhood there was someone living in our basement,” Young, 38, said. “This notion of giving back and helping others go back generations in my family.”
Young’s grandmother would also take in students who couldn’t afford housing.
“It was part of being socially responsible, caring about the world community,” Young said. “That’s how we were raised, how our parents were raised and how our grandparents were raised.”
Young was eager to continue their legacy and jumped at the chance to join GiveLocally. Still, Young had a flaw.
“Bo’s background is not in technology,” Nelson said. “But when you meet someone who is bright and who gets it, that doesn’t matter.”
The two clicked.
“I count Bo has a good friend and not just a business partner. We are completely aligned,” Newman said. “Neither he or I have ever taken a dollar. We have taken nothing.
"We are dedicated to growing this venture to help others and we don’t look at it as a source of income. There is nothing in our plans to change that.”
GiveLocally officially launched in November. The company mostly targets the working class, people barely making enough to buy grocery, pay their rent or buy clothes for their children.
So far, they have helped about 100 individuals and families in 47 states, including seven in Georgia.
“We help people who would not otherwise be helped,” said Young from his southwest Atlanta home. “Our focus is on the working class. Our donation base is mostly interested in people who are in between jobs or who are gainfully employed.”
People who are a check away from a crisis.
“Anything can force someone to deviate from their jobs and put them in a crisis situation,” Young said.
They are the people who non-profit organizations and government agencies overlook; people who fall through the cracks of an imperfect system.
Through GiveLocally, Newman and Young plan to bridge the gap.
“GiveLocally was set up to help people who otherwise wouldn’t get help,” Young said. “We want to be a self-sustaining network. We want to be a social networking arm to help the greater good.
“No one is using the internet for social networking with people who want to help one another.”
Well, no one, until now.
Janice Harris had done her job. The single mom had raised three children and was ready to move on with her life. But a phone call late one night changed her world.
Suddenly Harris was looking down at two homeless infants whose parents had been kicked out onto the streets.
She took the sleeping infants into her two-bedroom california home and helped nurse them back to health. Nivea, then 5 months old, suffered from whooping cough, pneumonia and asthma. Tayshaun, then 17 months old, also suffers from asthma.
“It was a terrible year,” Harris said, as tears formed. “After getting your kids grown and getting on with your life, then to have two little children drop off on you. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. But it’s been a hard year.”
Harris, who is still recovering after having surgery on both knees, created a routine that centered around her grandchildren. The 48-year-old, who needs money for college and supplies, had to place her needs on hold.
There just wasn’t enough money to go around.
“Sometimes I don’t even know what to do,” Harris said. “I know I’m not the only grandmother going through this and I’m happy I’m a grandmother. It’s just so damn hard.”
She gets up at 6 a.m. to have some time to herself. By 6:30 or 7 a.m., the children were up and it was time to feed and dress them. Then she finds things to do to keep them happy, focus and motivated.
With no toys to play with, the toddlers mostly played with each other. Nivea took to following her big brother around.
“The toys they had came from other people. They were broken up, so I got rid of them,” Harris said. Harris often took them to the park to play.
Afterwards, it was time for lunch and then a nap.
Harris tries to have them in bed by 7:30 or 8 p.m. But that doesn’t always work. Sometimes the busy toddlers, now 1½ and 2 ½ years old, refused to close their eyes until 10 or 11 p.m.
“It’s sad because my grand kids don’t even know their mom and dad,” Harris said.
Their mother, a junkie in need of mental health care and their dad, Harris’ son, was in state prison. Harris was mostly on her own.
“I know God is going to bring me through. It’s going to get better. I don’t know how or when, but it’s going to get better.”
The call came about 30 days ago. The man on the line introduced himself as Jorge Piche. A friend of Harris had called Piche with GiveLocally for help.
Sitting at the dining table, Piche looks at his pregnant wife and child. The 35-year-old director for GiveLocally knows he’s blessed.
That knowledge drives him even more to help the families whose stories he knew all too well.
“It’s so hard. You have to hear them and listen to them and you have to absorb all this… It gets to you. It really does.”
Piche is normally the first and the last person candidates speak to, spending 10 minutes or more listening to their life stories.
“When someone contacts us, we become their best friend for 30 minutes. They tell you all that’s going on their lives. You cry with them. You have to encourage them, to let them know to keep going.”
The company has 15 to 20 full time and part time employees as well as independent contractors.
The employees go through 15 to 20 requests a day from people calling to get help or from people recommending someone who needs help.
They then screen each candidate. Sometimes it takes a week or more to verify identities, income, and employment as well as confirm their needs. With everyone cooperating, it can take three days.
Still, the company isn’t too highly concerned about fraudulent claims. The money is distributed in-kind. The recipients never receive cash. Instead, the money is paid to landlords to cover rent; to the utilities company to cover bills and in the case of groceries, the recipients receive vouchers.
Piche works 12 to 16-hour days during the week and on weekends, he’s still on the phone.
“If we get the money, I want them to know. We want them to know we are here,” Piche said. “It’s so hard to hear when someone is in need and they have kids.”
So far, only one or two people haven’t been helped on the site, Piche said.
Donors read the stories and choose who they want to help. Some have helped a single mom buy a pair of glasses. Others have helped parents obtain food at a hospital where their daughter had surgery to remove a brain tumor. They have helped paid the high school graduation fees for a teen whose mother had one child in college and another on the way.
With donations as small as $5 or as much as $100 or more, donors have given tens of thousands of dollars since the launch. They were making a difference, and through the testimonies they were seeing the impact.
Harris is grateful to the company and donors who helped raise $250 to buy diapers, clothes and shoes for her grandchildren.
“For people like Give Locally to help in putting my story out there, it’s just such as blessing,” Harris said, overcome by emotions.
Still, the money was gone in a week and Harris’ story remains on the site along with the many others who continue to need help.
“The best part is when we get the money and we call them up and say we’re going to help you,” Piche said. “That feeling is amazing.
GiveLocally keeps 18 percent of the donations to cover operating costs and pay the employees.
Young and Newman hope the company will make enough of a profit to make GiveLocally self-sustainable.
They liken the site to an old-time barn raising in which neighbors would contribute nails, tools and a helping hand.
“We don’t want to rely on charities and the government,” Young said. “We can help each other.”
The two want GiveLocally to be the online social giving property or brand.
Newman has made a career out of representing leaders of top technology companies. But when his four children ask him what he does, he plans to give them one answer.
“What daddy does is help people the best way he can.”
On his death bed, the intellectual property and employment lawyer won’t remember his biggest client or his largest deal.
“I will remember the person I helped whose name I don’t know,” Newman said. “Every time we help someone, I feel like a proud parent.”
Young envisions parents and children sitting around the table going through the stories as they decide together who to help.
When Christmas rolls around and people search for others to help, Newman has only one hope – that they turn to GiveLocally.
“The one place that has the integrity, the skill, the track record and the ability to give quickly. That's GiveLocally,” Newman said. “We want to take it to the point where we are a national and international brand.
“We want to be the Google of giving.”