How can GP give back?

Hey folks,

@strebel here.

I wanted to start a conversation here on how Gangplank can give back to the community. Whether it be thru volunteer service, charitable act, donations etc. I think it is time we organize our efforts to help the local community. I want to hear your thoughts on what gangplank can do.

Allow me to share a story. Once upon a time I was tasked with the challenge of helping someone. It was a bet. 8 people put $100 each on the line, and the 8 were split into 2 teams of 4. Our task was to help someone, and whichever team helped the most won the full $800.. aka double our $100 investment. We had exactly 4 hours to accomplish our mission.

As team leader I decided our efforts would be focused on the elderly. I came up with a plan to simply brighten the day of some senior citizens at a local senior home. Now if you have ever been to a senior home, you will know they need their day brightened.

I flipped open the phone book and called a senior care-giving facility out in east Mesa and asked if they would mind if we brought some gifts over to their residents. The lady said sure, and dinner was at 5pm.

I tasked one guy to work the phone, his job was to call all the local flower shops between us (Elliot and 1-10 in Tempe) and the facility we chose to work with out in East Mesa.

I opened my laptop and called back to my office ( and got my hired programming gun at the time Jason Ayers on the phone and told him what we were doing. Between the two of us we launched a quick little website at the time called “Blessing for Seniors” .com (A name suggested by one of the group members). Also designed some quick “Donation Receipts” that I ran over to Kinko’s to get printed off. Receipts in hand, and website live (thanks to wordpress) we were off.

The guy working the phones stayed behind and called us whenever he had a hot lead. We would arrive at the flower shop and introduce ourselves saying that “HI, You spoke with our associate, you have some flowers for us to pick up”. Here’s the deal, Every flower shop has throw-aways.. aka flowers that did not sell and will be tossed before the expire. We would fill out the little receipt with dollar amount value of the flowers, and leave a copy with flower shop owner.

We made about 15 stops along the way to the senior home, the Audi I drive was bursting with flowers. One shop even gave us 4 dozen small glass vases.

So we arrived at the Senior home, and met the “Activities Coordinator” that I spoke with earlier. She was blown away by the volume of flowers we produced.

Myself and my team members stopped at every room and chatted with the residents as we left flowers in little vases on their nightstand or table. This 20-30 minutes had a profound impact on me. Some of these residents were very old, and very ill.. Yet it was evident that they were deeply touched by the visit and the gift.

Finally we met in the dining hall, It was supper time. The nurses and orderlies were bringing the residents in by wheel chair and escorting those that could walk with assistance. We left a large bouquet of flowers in a vase on every table, and spoke with each table/residents while we were there. Again.. It is hard describe what I felt at the time doing this. These people were geniunely touched at our small gesture. Ever have an 96 yr old lady tell you what a nice young man you are, and that your gift of flowers was the nicest thing someone has done for her in years?

We had to get back, so we said goodbye and left.

Total Value of flowers: $850, Total Cost: $0
Doing a small deed to help others…. pardon the cliche: priceless.

Of course my team won the contest and we pocketed the winnings.. Though you see, the other team decided to pick a homeless man up, feed him, give him a shower, buy him a new set of clothes, and even lined up a few job interviews for him at Goodwill and The Salvation Army as a warehouse clerk. My team decided to pocket our original investment, put our $100 back in our pocket.. and give our winnings to the homeless guy as pocket money. More giving the better.

The moral of the story. It only takes your time to make a difference in the lives of others.

This is just one idea I did some years ago. Please share with me your ideas on how Gangplank can give back, whatever they may be.

9 thoughts on “How can GP give back?

  1. What a great story! I was going through my tweets and read it again.

    Unfortunately, the problem is that there are SO many people in need.
    There is an organization that while less, “hands on” in the community, matches your expertise with organizations that need it. is a nonprofit that supports nonprofit organizations through web development and busines services. You could choose projects they need help with. I think they send out an email to their volunteers on what comes up.

    If you want to do something fun and get media attention to bring out more people, check out

    Locally, there is a volunteer site that you can coordinate an entire group or individual to provide help and it’s


  2. These are all great ideas. How about if we set up a night to meet at gangplank. We can then vote on charity projects and break into groups. Something similar to StartUp weekend but less time. That way we can accomplish more if there is enough interest. When we invite people, we can ask them to bring in old computers that they don’t use and want to get rid of.

    @ralph We’ll have to live stream you in so you can feel included.

    Is anyone interested in this approach?

  3. The brown bag lunches and hacknight are great. How could you expand that to have some classes for people that have been laid off that want to get into web design, programming, IT, etc?


  4. We actually already have a surprising amount of infrastructure in place, with able-bodied individuals congregating at the same facility every week. Maybe we take an occasional Hack Night Wednesday and just put away the laptops, crank up the music, and start putting together care packets for third-world children, for soldiers, for seniors, for whomever. If we individually donate some supplies and bring them that evening, we could knock out a lot of care packages in a single hack night.

  5. Great idea. I personally give a little every year when I can. I am currently working on an NPO in New Jersey that gives collects book donations and gives them out to children. Although, the funny thing is I am unable to find a designer willing to help out on the pro-bono project. Funny how some people don’t want to do good deeds if they don’t get paid.

    Anyway, the point I am getting at is maybe looking beyond the valley to spread the love and do a good deed. Perhaps by finding a worthy cause outside of Phoenix, you could end up spreading the word about how great the Phoenix Creative Community is and bring more attention to the valley.

    So as nice as it is to help the valley, perhaps by helping outside of the valley will help the valley even more. Does this make sense?

  6. Josh,

    Great story, and I’m not surprised to learn that Jason was involved too.

    Too many of us have been touched by cancer. I’ve been involved with the Relay for Life of Central Phoenix since 2002. This event is designed to fully honor all those touched by cancer. We start with a Survivor Ceremony and Dinner, move on to the Luminaria Ceremony (my favorite), and include entertainment and games along the way.

    Check out our site at It would be great to have a Gangplank Team participate.



  7. I work for a non-profit working with low income families facing multiple challenges. In this age, families need computers between schoolwork and research ability, plus the current job searching modalities we are moving to. The computers only need to be able to run word-processing and internet.
    I go through AZStrut for systems, but they have a lot of requesters and we only get 5 every 6 months or so. If y’all have old CPUs and equipment hanging around that still works or wouldn’t need much to work, we can take it and make sure families get them.

    We always have many needs for families, but with web savvy people, I find that a lot of them have old systems hanging around.

  8. leave it to the guy who suggested the initial idea for myshelterhelper / doggie slobber, but how about something similar but geared toward pets.

    we could organize some sort of contest/event that helps animal shelter get pets adopted and get the word out. the event could involve breaking into teams and coming up with a strategy/plan to get pets adopted for their particular shelter. the team with the most pet adoptions at the end of the day wins the contest, with the winnings going to the winning teams shelter.

    we help multiple shelters by getting the word out, helping a few pets get homes, and helping one shelter with some donations. similar to your idea, but with a different twist.

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