According to a 2014 New York Times article, 42 percent of Chattanooga children live below the poverty line, but local foundations have helped bring a new "philanthropy portal" to Chattanooga that will allow locals to help with that problem.
In the fall, Blake Canterbury approached the Community Foundation and Maclellan Foundation about sponsorship to bring his website, Purposity.com, to Chattanooga.
"Purposity" is a word Canterbury created by combining the words "purpose" and "generosity" to mean finding purpose through being generous. Canterbury’s website was created with this principle in mind.
"Our mission is to encourage giving and to better the lives of Chattanoogans," Shay Spurgin, administrative assistant at the Community Foundation, said. "We’re hoping that [through this] we’ll be able to meet more needs."
When Purposity comes to a new city, employees contact nonprofits or social workers to find people in the city who need something.
These nonprofits or social workers then give Purposity a list of items needed by people they know are in a rough spot. Purposity then takes the list of items and puts it into their database to be sent out to people who want to help.
On the other side, people who want to be involved with the program sign up with their phone number and ZIP code.
Purposity then sends out a weekly text to these people with a link to an item on Amazon.com that someone in the city needs. Those who receive the text can either buy the item then or click on another link to learn more about the person they’re helping.
This process was created specifically to make sure the people receiving the items are vetted for and that people are helping others in an efficient way that allows them to have a connection to the people they’re helping.
Currently, Purposity is connected to Hamilton County school guidance counselors, allowing those subscribed to the program to help children who need new shoes, books or similar items.
Soon, subscribers will be able to buy items for homeless or low-income families. More features are also being developed to allow subscribers to pick a price range or which nonprofits they wish to specifically work with.
During a test run in Chattanooga, 40 needs were met in 24 hours. Currently, about 150 residents have signed up, and officials hope to see 500 residents sign up by Feb. 15.
"The ability to meet very specific needs from a neighbor to neighbor basis deprofessionalizes it and allows neighbors to take care of neighbors," David Denmark, president of the Maclellan Foundation, said. "It’s a lot more exciting to buy a girl tennis shoes while I’m at dinner with my wife."
Purposity is also located in Atlanta, and leaders are planning for other expansions in Hiwassee, Georgia; Cumming, Georgia; Austin, Texas; Bend, Oregon; and Birmingham, Alabama.
To sign up at Proposity.com, click here.
Alina Hunter-Grah is a contributing writer. She is also currently attending UTC, where she is the news editor for the school newspaper, The University Echo.