Ronald McDonald House Charities of Maine

More than 300 Volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House in Portland Maine are scheduled into four 3-hour calendar shifts each day to staff the front desk, clean rooms, and provide families with support to help make their lives easier while their children are being treated in nearby hospitals.

Prior to 2008, scheduling volunteers into shifts at the House was done by hand, using a paper calendar and a Rolodex file of names and addresses. The process was error‐prone and cumbersome.

In 2008, a team of four computer science students at Bowdoin College worked with the House Manager to create new software to change this. The students built a system called Homebase, a system providing online volunteer and calendar information, and a user interface that allows scheduling of volunteers into shifts with a simple online action. By streamlining this tedious administrative work, Homebase allows volunteers to spend more time serving and supporting families in need.

The original Homebase project was later used as a foundation for several additional classes and projects. Two classes expanded and enhanced it in 2011 and 2013 for the Portland House. Another class at Whitman College revamped and customized Homebase in 2015 for use at the Ronald McDonald House in Providence, Rhode Island.

Later in 2015, Homebase was again enhanced so that it serves the volunteer scheduling needs of both the Portland and Bangor, Maine Houses.

This iterative process directly reflects a basic goal of NPFI: to form partnerships that address long-term mission-critical technical needs by customizing successful open source software that had been developed for a related application elsewhere.


The Development Triad:

  • The Client: Ronald McDonald House Charities of Maine required on-line volunteer scheduling support to replace its manual paper-based system.
  • The Student Team: Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine developed the original Homebase application with 4 computer science students and an instructor during the spring 2008 semester.  Other Bowdoin student teams refined and extended it in 2011, 2013, and 2015.  A Whitman College student team adapted Homebase for the Ronald McDonald House in Providence in 2105.
  • The Software Professional: Artopa, Inc., Portland, Maine provides web hosting support for Homebase in Maine, and Coursevector LLC provides hosting support for Homebase in Rhode Island.  NPFI provides technical support for bug fixes and feature enhancements for both installations.

Instructor/Developer Links: