Last week, Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) launched a new website, www.taskeventscheduler.herokuapp.com, to help patrons find employment and time-manage their schedules. Developed in collaboration with TASK and a group of Princeton University computer science students, the website will initially offer a platform where patrons and potential employers can easily find each other.

Patrons will be able to see what jobs are available and employers can attract potential candidates with hiring drives. Eventually, the site will be utilized as a scheduling hub for various upcoming TASK events. The “best part,” according to TASK Job Specialist Paulash Banerjee, is when patrons sign up to attend events, the website sends them appointment reminders via text or email alerts.

“Basically, we’re going to have a calendar available to anyone with an internet connection that will show all scheduled TASK events,” said Banerjee, who is working with students on the project. “Many of our patrons have difficulty keeping appointments and this could go a long way to help alleviate that barrier to getting jobs and/or the services we offer.”

TASK website calendar. Photo provided by Emily Varga.

The university students began working on the project in September 2020. After Banerjee was approached by a university representative – a computer science student looking for a project, the collaboration came about. Banerjee said the idea just, “popped into my head.”

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could create something that would give them a nudge as to what is coming up,” Banerjee said. “I proposed it to the rep who brought it to the class and one of the groups decided to take it up.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, TASK hosted on-site hiring drives at its main facility on Escher Street, featuring Amazon, McDonald’s and other employers. Patrons connected with employers in-person and virtually, using the TASK computer lab. That initiative ceased in March when the soup kitchen closed its dining room and suspended all volunteer and non-food related activities to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Linking employers to jobseekers during the pandemic has been particularly challenging for TASK, and this new site offers an opportunity to help solve this problem.

“Information is power and getting information to our patrons in a way they are familiar with is important,” said Banerjee. “In our environment getting employers and employees together is difficult enough as it is. This is just a better way of communicating and it includes time management tools our patrons need.”

Banerjee continued, “Information is power and getting information to our patrons in a way they are familiar with is important. In our environment getting employers and employees together is difficult enough as it is. This is just a better way of communicating and it includes time management tools our patrons need.”

As the website continued to develop, TASK and the university students realized their initial vison for the site can far exceed their plans. Together, they made adjustments and added additional functions to boost the website’s capabilities. Although this for-longed the launch date of the website, Banerjee hopes the websites features will allow for further use past the pandemic.

“It’s been pushed back a couple times, because as we’ve seen how far the website can actually reach out to people. We can actually help with it not just in the job search, but throughout the organization,” said Banerjee. “I think we assumed that the world is going to come back to normal at some point. We’d like the website to be expanded to where it’s not just helping people find a job, but if they need things, just to promote greater self sufficiency, anything that we can do to mark them towards that, we’re hoping the website can help them this way.”

With the website still in its beginning phase, Banerjee and colleague Emily Varga will continue fielding phone calls from patrons who need help finding jobs, writing resumes or filling out job applications. The new system will help make that part of their jobs easier in time to come.

“It’s difficult to keep track and follow up on every patron when we have so many who need our help,” Varga said. “This will help with follow up. They will have a direct way to communicate with the potential employer if they want to.”

To view TASK’s new website, click HERE.