WESTERLY — Matthew Dickerman is determined to be the change he wants to see in this often weary world.
Dickerman, the 17-year-old son of Dan and Amy Dickerman of Ashaway, has created a website that simplifies the act of volunteering.
Launched just last week, Helpademic.org gives nonprofits, churches and social service agencies a place to post their needs and potential volunteers the opportunity to scan the lists and choose how they’d like to help.
Dickerman, a junior at Chariho High School, said he is committed to helping make the world a better place by helping those in need. Goodness begets goodness, he believes, and when people work together, a sort of beehive of positivity is created, establishing a network of workers with the potential to expand and grow. Perhaps around the world.
“I think youth can change the world,” said Dickerman one afternoon last week as he unveiled his new project at the Dunn’s Corners Community Church Presbyterian, where he and his family are active members. “And I think we can bring communities together in a way that hasn’t been done before.” Especially now, in the digital age.
The website has two main goals, said Dickerman, who is tall, well-spoken, clean-cut and earnest. “Get help and give help.”
“And it’s very simple,” he stressed. “All you have to do is log on, make an account, fill out the sheet, name the need, and add a point of contact.”
The logo for Helpademic.org is an expanding honeycomb, which Dickerman said symbolizes “worker bees coming together.”
“The worker bees of the world must come together to work together,” he said. “To help others and to spread their compassion.”
For what he perceives as “a growing need to help people in need,” Helpademic.org can serve as a connector, a solution.
“We are all surrounded by those in need,” he said, “but we don’t necessarily know what needs exist or how we may be able to help.”
“And, it’s open to anyone,” said the high-schooler, who is also a member of Chariho’s Student Advisory Board. “You don’t have to be affiliated with any group or organization.”
It can also be used by students in need of community service hours and service-oriented clubs like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, Dickerman said.
The idea for the website began with a church bulletin and a family drive to Boston, Dickerman explained.
One Sunday, after services at the Dunn’s Corners church, the Dickerman family piled in the car and headed north. While perusing the church bulletin, and reading the help needed notices, a discussion ensued.
“All church bulletins have needs listed,” said Dickerman’s dad, Dan, a computer forensic expert and an adjunct professor at the University of Rhode Island, who helped Matthew design and implement Helpademic.org. “But only members of each church get to see those needs.”
With his son’s website, he said, people here in the Greater Westerly area, and people around the country, can log on, check out the needs, and decide how, where and when to volunteer or make donations.
“We have family members spread around the country,” he said, noting that some of the first organizations to sign on to Helpademic are located in Georgia and Florida, where the Dickermans have relatives. “This can become global.”
Several Westerly, Warwick and Charlestown organizations, from Habitat for Humanity to the Jonnycake Center of Westerly, have already signed on to Helpademic.org. Dunn’s Corners Community Church Presbyterian and The Michael Walton Foundation are listed as partner organizations.
Philanthropist Michael Walton, founder and CEO of the foundation, was in Westerly last year and spoke to students at Westerly High School as part of the foundation’s “Speak Out to Reach Out” tour. Dickerman was in the audience during that school assembly and said something that today sounds like a premonition.
“If we support each other, we can achieve something small and turn it into something bigger,” Dickerman said following Walton’s remarks. “You just have to put in the work.”
“This family is amazing,” said Julie Eberly of Westerly, a development professional whose husband, Wayne, is the pastor of the Dunn’s Corners congregation. She said she was “blown away by Matthew’s vision ... and project.”
“I think he can make a global impact,” said Eberly.
Visit helpademic.org to learn more.