This week I finally made it back to the Code for Tampa Bay Meetup. C4TB is a Code for America brigade located in Tampa, FL. I had joined the organization in early 2019 looking to find a way to contribute to our community, but had recently gotten out of the habit of attending. So, when one of the organizers told me they were looking to reboot and redouble their efforts, I felt like it was a good opportunity to try again.
I am glad I did. The Meetup was well organized and also well attended with maybe 15 members present. Rick Myers, one of the co-organizers, led the meeting. While it started with introductions, an overview of Code for America, and a brief history of Code for Tampa Bay, it quickly progressed to meeting two community groups: Well Built Bikes, and Faces of Courage.
Well Built Bikes is a non-profit bike shop. It sells refurbished bikes, but its main mission is to provide transportation to homeless and low-income people. It does this through its Earn-a-Bike program, which allows participants to invest time in community service in order to receive a ‘free’ bicycle. Jon Dengler, one of the founders of Well Built Bikes, talked to us about poverty and homelessness in Tampa Bay, along with the history of the Earn-a-Bike program, and his mission to make a difference in the community. He and Rick also talked about the work that C4TB has been doing with Well Built Bikes to redesign and streamline their website and point-of-sale system.
After this presentation we heard from Peggie Sherry, the founder and CEO of Faces of Courage. Her organization focuses on providing free camps and outings for children and adults diagnosed with cancer. She shared with us her personal story as a cancer survivor (and thriver) and how it led her to found Faces of Courage. Of course, we also learned about some of the difficulties she has managing of her events, participants, volunteers, and donors. The C4TB group plans to talk to her more about that to see how we might use our knowledge as technologists to find some tools to help. Having spent the last decade supporting clinical trials, I empathize with people who are affected by serious diseases, so I feel particularly motivated to get involved with the Faces of Courage project.
The night ended with some informal socializing and there was a distinct sense of anticipation for the next meeting. While neither of the projects we talked about might qualify as civic tech, they certainly support our local community, and I am looking forward to helping. I do hope we can get some quest speakers from the county or the city to come out to some future events.
If you would like to attend, check out the Code for Tampa Bay Meetup page. Hope to see you there.