Giving for the future: Website connects donors, disadvantaged Forsyth students
Joni Smith, executive director of The Place of Forsyth County, scrolls through the Purposity website, which allows users to click on specific needs in the community and purchase them on Amazon. - photo by Micah Green

School social workers and nonprofits throughout Forsyth County, Atlanta and across the nation spend countless hours finding items their children and clients need just to get by. Drives, donations and grants help rake in large-scale loads of necessities like food, school supplies and clothes.

What happens when one elderly woman needs a pack of adult diapers? A social worker sees a student with holes in his shoes, but it’s not approaching Christmas so there is no shoe drive going on? Or a mother needs a uniform to start the job she was accepted to but cannot afford it yet?

“In Forsyth, I found that I had obviously a lot of students in need because we were serving … that community, and we had a ton of people that wanted to help,” said Jamie Rife, former homeless education liaison for Forsyth County Schools. “So we and the school social workers would be a conduit between those two groups, and managing all of that something got difficult.”

It’s personalized to your area, and it touches the heart,
Joni Smith, executive director, The Place of Forsyth County

Rife and her business partner, Blake Canterberry, founded Purposity.com, a website that aims to help disadvantaged children, adults and families on a one-to-one basis by allowing users to scroll through individual needs and purchase them for that client.

“I just really, really wanted a way to kind of harness this incredible giving power and generosity that we have in Forsyth County to really help all the students who need help,” Rife said.

Purposity launched in Forsyth County Schools in spring 2016 with three social workers and about 150 users.

“As a social worker, I can see a kid, say he needs a new pair of shoes. I can go on Amazon and find them, and I have special rights on the back of the platform,” said Rife, who moved to Colorado to serve as the state’s homeless education coordinator before deciding to work on Purposity full-time. “I load it in, tell a little about the kid’s story, without any sort of personal identifying information … On Monday nights, users get a text message [that] is a link to that story and then you click on the link, read that story, and the price is right there.

And if you want to help you just click the take me to Amazon button and you purchase the item, and it ships right to the social worker.”

Rife said needs range from $9.99 to $199, which was for a bunk bed.

The Place of Forsyth County is able to post needs for their clients on the site, and Executive Director Joni Smith said “we’ve never had anything not be filled.”

Smith cannot ask for food to till the emergency services nonprofit’s pantry, but she has asked for items like adult diapers and uniforms for parents getting jobs.

“It’s personalized to your area, and it touches the heart,” Smith said. “It’s real people. You’ll see a post saying a single mother in your zip code with three kids is in dire need of this.”

After expanding to all of Forsyth’s school social workers, Rife said Atlanta Public Schools, Cobb County Schools, Marietta City Schools and a couple systems in Chattanooga, Tennessee, have started using the platform.

“FCS gets money donated from Browns Bridge [Church], and in the past they use it for small things like backpacks and shoes. Now, we can take care of that, and they used it for rotors on a mom’s car so she can continue to work and keep a roof over her family’s head,” Rife said.

After 10 months, Purposity has met 1,583 individual needs across six communities, totaling $42,276 in donations.

“We got a park-and-play for this baby who needed it for therapy,” The Place’s Smith said. “It’s the way of the future for giving.”