Todd "Max" Maxwell, founder of Manhattan Beach-based Internet marketing company eMaximize, was deeply affected by the news reports coming out of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after the January earthquake there. As he researched the destruction, a more local disaster came to mind.
"I started thinking about [Hurricane] Katrina and how long it took our country to provide aid to Katrina victims, " Maxwell said. "I always thought no matter how bad it gets, you can pick up and start walking and eventually after several hours or a day you will be far away from whatever bad happened. But that's certainly not the case with Haiti, being an island. They're going to be in very much a rebuilding state for many, many years."
He began thinking about what eMaximize could do to help, though he said it was not immediately apparent how the website development, search engine optimization and Internet marketing strategizing that eMaximize provides to clients could be of use to the people of Haiti. Then he got an idea.
"I figured there must be a deserving organization in Haiti that lost e-mail and/or web servers," he said.
Maxwell discovered a website called We Have We Need (as of press time, the site is no longer up), which allowed people to post what services and items they had to donate and to also make requests for items needed by the people of Haiti. Maxwell posted a notice offering his company's services, and after some time he was contacted by a charity called JEBCA.
JEBCA is a cultural and faith-based charity that was founded in Haiti in 1983. At the beginning JEBCA was focused on creating social programs to support young people in the town of Degand, but since the temblor it has expanded its work to include mental health counseling, educational placement for earthquake-affected children, need-based scholarships, mobile health clinics and sanitation programs for tent cities in Carrefour.
After researching JEBCA's efforts, Maxwell decided that this was the group he wanted to help. His staff responded overwhelmingly positive to the idea and soon began building a website and setting up e-mail accounts for JEBCA workers.
"We cannot express enough our gratitude to Max and his team for restoring Internet communication to our organization," said Pierre Jobner Joachim, JEBCA's president. "Our ability to communicate via e-mail and accept donations from our website is critical to our ability to provide relief to the people of Haiti."
Maxwell said he hopes his company's charity work will inspire others to donate their services.
"I just thought if I could do something, if I could figure out a way for this little company, in this little beach town, to provide Internet services to a Third World country, then there's got to be a way for other companies that provide a service to offer it and help," Maxwell said. "It's so low cost to volunteer and it's such high value to them."
Maxwell, who founded eMaximize in early 2009, says his prior experience in the business world motivated him to run a company that was honest and compassionate.
"I often provide free services and information to potential clients long before we have a financial agreement," he said. "We're looking for long-lasting relationships because this is where I want to be, this is where I want to make my mark for the next 20 or 30 years. I'm not in for the quick buck at all."
Maxwell, who is also donating his time to relaunch after-school music program Our Conservatory in Los Angeles, said "Working with the Haitian people was a good way of showing a side of eMaximize I wanted them to see."