New App Links Those In Need To Services

By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Nikki Johnson-Huston is not a “techie.” But this successful Philadelphia tax attorney has never let obstacles hold her back. She spent time living on the streets as child and wanted to create an innovative way to help those in need. So she called in her tech-savvy husband Shawn– and the duo came up with a smart phone app called “Donafy.”

“Donate-notify…Donafy,” says Johnson-Huston, who got the idea for the app when walking past individuals sleeping on the streets and wanted to find an easy way to help.

“The app allows you to donate using micro-philanthropy giving $1, $5 or $10,” she says, “or if you are walking down the street and see someone who needs help you can push a button and notify an organization that someone needs help.”

(Credit: Cherri Gregg)

(Credit: Cherri Gregg)

The app uses GPS to map out the location of the person accessing it and pull up the names of nearby organizations that provide a variety of services, including food, housing, clothing, job training, health services and more. So far, Johnson-Huston says roughly 125 non-profit organizations are loaded onto the app. Information including the hours of operations, list of services, address, phone number and much more are readily accessible on a brigh screen. She says another purpose of the app is to link those in need to services.

“When you’re poor and you’re lacking resources, you don’t necessarily have the network to find the things you need,” says Johnson-Huston, who spoke about the frustration of being sent to a soup kitchen as a child, only to find out the location was closed.

“It was very discouraging,” she says, “you could have spent your last dollar to get there….I wish that my family had had access to Donafy when we were living on the streets.”

Johnson-Huston says many individuals who are homeless or live in poverty have more access to smart phones than computers or other devices, so smart phones are the best way for them to find help.

(Credit: Cherri Gregg)

(Credit: Cherri Gregg)

“A lot of times, the phone is their only connection to the modern world,” says Johnson-Huston.

Johnson-Huston and her husband used their own money to create the app, hiring coders to create the backend and enter data. She says the app will be available beginning March 2 via iTunes for free and calls it– her “gift” to the city of Philadelphia.

“Hopefully, the dream is to take this all over the country,” she says, “the point is to say you don’t have to be rich to do something.”

Hear the extended interview with Nikki Johnson-Huston in this CBS Philly podcast (runs 11:00)…

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Know someone in your community who cares enough to give back? Nominate them for KYW Newsradio news coverage at communityaffairs@kyw.com!

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