United Way of Southern Cameron County announced that the program Get Shift Done was named as number one in Fast Company’s 2021 World’s Top Most Innovative Companies under the Not-for-Profit category.

The program, which has been in operation at United Way of Southern Cameron County for 10 months and in other parts of the country, connects restaurant industry partners, non-profits and skilled workers through its technology platform powered by Shiftsmart, the official website reads.

“I would describe this program as an opportunity for people who were unsure of the future and not only is this an opportunity for them but it’s also beneficial to all of the organizations that are receiving their help,” Emily Rodriguez, Get Shift Done coordinator, said.

The announcement on Fast Company states the finalists have persevered through the trials of 2020, finding original and effective ways to reach people in need, tackle the compound crises that emerged during the pandemic, and lift up voices that for too long haven’t been heard.

Get Shift Done was recognized as number one for “tackling both job loss and hunger by paying hospitality workers to fill food-bank shifts” the website reads.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t seen any slow down of people needing food assistance. … People still need food, if anything, the numbers are higher than when we first started,” Rodriguez said.

“I think that it’s important that this initiative continues, until we get back to some sort of normalcy.”

Traci Wickett, chief executive officer at United Way of Southern Cameron County, said Get Shift Done made it possible for United Way of Southern Cameron County to get more food to more people more quickly during the pandemic.

Those who register can pick up shifts at Good Neighbor, Brownsville Wellness Coalition, Ozanam Center, Salvation Army, the Food Bank RGV, Amigos del Valle and the Food Distributions that take place Fridays and are part of United Way of Southern Cameron County.

“1,300 displaced restaurant workers have signed up for the Get Shift Done app,” Wickett said.

“We have paid over $600,000 in wages to workers who have staffed 2,000 shifts at local nonprofit feeding programs. Without Get Shift Done we would have drowned in paperwork and payroll processing, but with the app we could concentrate on the most urgent food needs of the Rio Grande Valley.”

Rodriguez said it has been a team effort to make the program successful and that she is humbled to be part of something like this with other people who also have as a main goal helping the community, especially those who need it the most.

“There’s also been 20 or so Get Shift Done that have been offered full-time positions at all these locations as well,” she said.

“To see everything unfold, not just by giving out food but by the testimonies that the workers share, I’m just humbled to be in a position where I can see that growth,” she said.

nreyna@brownsvilleherald.com