Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
For the Katz family, the time of need arose as mother Carole was dying of ovarian cancer.
For Amy Gibson, it came when her military husband was deployed overseas three days after she gave birth to their third child.
For Sue Crawford, it came when her fiance, Patrick Durkin, was slammed by a wave at Ocean City, breaking his neck and leaving him pretty much like Christopher Reeve, paralyzed from the shoulders down.
A free website called www.lotsahelpinghands.com is enabling tens of thousands of families in distress to create private communities of friends and family members to assist them with their needs.
The website allows a family coordinator to do what they would otherwise be doing by e-mail and phone-tag - keep track of appointments, meals, daily tasks and who has volunteered to do what.
Today, some 30,000 families have created private communities of friends through the Lotsa Helping Hands website, said Brooks Kenny, chief marketing officer. It is free to families, as nonprofit groups and businesses support the site as partners, she said. The communities are secured and private - people join by invitation only.
As one might imagine, this innovation was born out of travail.
Several years ago, when his wife was sick, Massachusetts high-tech entrepreneur Barry Katz kept track of life for her and their teen daughters on a white board in his office. But even with this giant memo pad, he found it hard to coordinate their family's needs with the many offers of help that came their way.
One day after Mrs. Katz passed away, Mr. Katz found himself studying their white board, covered with phone numbers, appointments, errands and offers of help.
What I really wanted to do, I decided, was to make our family's struggles count for something, Mr. Katz wrote in a recent issue of Guideposts magazine
He worked with friend Hal Chapel to design a free online service that would help other families overwhelmed by a crisis. …