Have you ever been so excited to give someone a gift, lets say it’s a beautiful cashmere sweater, and you’re sure they’re going to love it? They open the box to see their gift inside, and a big smile comes across their face as they put it on right away. They love it! Or at least they say that they do.

The real proof comes when you run into them at the coffee shop downtown a few months later and they’re wearing the sweater.

It’s not too often that you get to see people use and enjoy what you’ve given them. But when you do it’s a wonderful feeling, knowing that what you spent all that time and energy picking out for that person is something they really enjoy and love to use!

Now, we’re not selling cashmere sweaters at UkuuPeople (sorry to disappoint), but we get the same feeling when we’re able to see someone using the Simple CRM for WordPress to help their organization.

Here at UkuuPeople, we love hearing from our customers. Not only about how UkuuPeople is working for them, but also about who they are, what sort of work they’re up to, and why they love what they do.

We recently had the privilege of interviewing one of our UkuuPeople happy customers Jeeni Criscenzo. Jeeni is the founder and president of Amikas, an incredible San Diego based nonprofit working hard to make sure that every woman and child has a safe place to live. (I’m going to tell you right now, Jeeni is a wonder woman! She has many irons in the fire, and not a one gets neglected. How do I know? Whenever we reach out to her, she answers. No reason she should. We’re just a small company that made a CRM she uses. But Jeeni is super woman personified, organized and prompt!)

So we’re really excited to to introduce you to Amikas, one of the many nonprofits we’ve been privileged to work with at UkuuPeople.

The Amikas Team in front of a sleeping cabin under construction

Question: Tell us about Amikas. In your own words, what does your organization do?

Jeeni: Amikas was founded in 2009 to help women and children who are homeless to get permanent housing. From the beginning, we focused on innovative actions that would result in getting homeless women into a safe living environment as quickly as possible. For the past two years Amikas has been laying the groundwork for Emergency Bridge Communities with sleeping cabins as safe, dignified housing for our most vulnerable homeless populations while the shortage of permanent housing is being addressed.

Question: What is your specific role at Amikas?

Jeeni: As the founder of Amikas and current president, my primary roles are to be a visionary and inspiration. Often that means rolling up my sleeves and doing the work no one else thinks they can do – but like Huck Finn, I’ve managed to make it look like fun and have built a team of dedicated advocates and volunteers to help get the work done.

Question: How were you inspired to start Amikas?

Jeeni: My inspiration to found Amikas came one evening in 2009 when I was leaving the old Central Library in downtown San Diego and I saw a group of people setting up cardboard on the sidewalk to bed down for the night. It was the first time I realized how bad the situation was in San Diego. But what got me to decide I had to do something about it was seeing a young mom with a little boy join that group and realizing that she was going to put her child to sleep on the sidewalk. That is something you hear about happening in third-world countries–not the United States of America.

Question: What’s one success story that you’d like to share about the work of Amikas?

Jeeni: One of our first clients was a veteran with a 15-year-old son who had lost her job and was being evicted from her apartment because she was late with her rent, and the penalties made it impossible for her to catch up. We knew that an eviction would make it nearly impossible for her to get another rental, so we worked out a deal with her landlady to stop the eviction and exorbitant fines if our client moved out and agreed to make monthly payments toward the original debt. There was no transitional housing available that would take a 15-year-old boy, so we housed our client and her son for a month in an SRO where we had one room set aside for Amikas. Without the stress of not knowing how she was going to house her child, our client was able to focus on getting another job and paying off her old rental debt. Without an eviction on her record, she was able to secure another apartment within six months. This could have easily turned into a tragedy where both mother and son could have experienced trauma and even assault, and the barriers to getting back on their feet could have been too much to overcome. Instead, they are back on track.

Amikas Sleeping Cabins at Expo

Question: Why did you decide on UkuuPeople for your nonprofit?

Jeeni: UkuuPeople’s Nonprofit Bundle really gives us the tools we need to tie all of this together. We can collect names at our website as well as at events. Because UkuuPeople synchronizes with MailChimp, we can easily follow up on all contacts with targeted emails and customize our messages for donors, volunteers, and clients. We can use UkuuPeople’s Google Calendar Sync to keep our website calendar updated and our directors and volunteers scheduled.

Question: Have you found UkuuPeople simple to use?

Jeeni: UkuuPeople is much more organized than the mish-mash of “solutions” we were using before. It’s easy enough to use that I could show it to our volunteer coordinator who is excellent at working with people but not so good at working with technology. She picked it up right away, and I love seeing those email notices that let me know she’s busy adding new people to our list. But my favorite part of UkuuPeople is how quickly they respond to questions and suggestions to make it even better. They get an A+ on customer support!

We’re thrilled to see UkuuPeople used in such a meaningful way. Thank you Amikas for all the good work that you do, and thank you for trusting your CRM contact communications to UkuuPeople.

To learn more about the incredible work of Amikas and to donate, please visit the Amikas Website.

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