As we draw closer to the holidays, a sense of panic mixed with excitement sets in for many of us when we look at the “to-do’s” left on our list. But for 2,800 families in the Topeka community, the hustle and bustle of the holiday equates to only dread – as limited budgets, job loss, or other life events impede the cheer of the season. The United Way Christmas Bureau helps make connections between families in need and those who want to help by adopting a family. In years past, an antiquated system has made it daunting for United Way to organize and do the paperwork needed to make those connections. Not anymore though. This process is running much more smoothly thanks to more than 500 hours of time donated by volunteers from the Technology Solutions department of local company, SE2.


The story began a couple of years ago, when several volunteers from SE2 experienced firsthand the difficulties the Christmas Bureau legacy administrative platform caused as they tried to do the data entry to match adopters and adoptees. The system was tired, outdated, and problematic. As a result, most of the work ended up being completed by manually sorting and stuffing paper forms into envelopes.


In 2011, a small team of volunteers from SE2 assembled internally to see how they could improve the system. “We thought to ourselves, ‘Hey, this is what we do. We could make this process better,’” said Nick Xidis, SE2 director of IT applications. Xidis explained how the SE2 volunteers worked closely with United Way to understand their processes and then built a web-based record-keeping system to streamline them. “Our teams are experts in helping clients tame complex administrative processes. We used that same process improvement knowledge and technical skill set to provide the Christmas Bureau with a more effective way to handle paperwork and processing.”


“Volunteers from SE2 built the new system, which is hosted on the latest ‘cloud-based’ technology platform from Amazon.com,” said Xidis. “Now the Christmas Bureau teams are able to travel to adopter registration sites with their laptops and perform data collection on the spot. It’s much more efficient.”


SE2 volunteers have continued to make improvements to the system this year and have played a key role in training volunteers. “It is indescribable, the work and results that the volunteers from SE2 have provided to make the Christmas Bureau an even better program,” said Miriam Krehbiel, United Way chief executive officer. “We cannot thank the SE2 volunteers enough for helping us not only once, but twice! And we know that their hard work will result in a brighter holiday season for many families in Topeka.”


The team of volunteers from SE2 who made this initiative successful is comprised of a combination of SE2 associates and contractors. Team members include: Geoffrey Alonso, Travis Buchanan, Beth Geyer, Marti Gonzalez, Becky Henry, Micah Hawkinson, Francis Mascarenhas, Jim McLaughlin, Susanne Metcalf, Raghu Nandikonda, Babu Narayanaswamy, Anh Nguyen, Sandy Ortiz, Glenna Powell, Babu Somalraju, Michael Van Doren, Chris Westerdale, Nick Xidis, and Sarah Zengel.