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Volunteer Dispatch

A bot which locates the closest volunteers to check-in on & run errands for vulnerable members of the community.

Made by Astoria Tech volunteers, for use by the Astoria Mutual Aid Network.

How it works

Astoria Mutual Aid Network’s volunteer dispatch works as follows:

  • People fill out a form to request help ( which feeds into Airtable
  • The bot (a node.js container) watches the Airtable sheet for new entries (every 15 seconds)
  • When a new entry is found, the request address is cross-referenced against the volunteer list to find the 10 closest volunteers who can fulfill the need, and posts them to a private dispatch channel on Slack (where we have trained dispatch volunteers coordinating with the field volunteers).

Software requirements

  • Make
  • Docker & Docker Compose

Integration requirements

Get the integration points setup:

And grab the API keys from each (and channel ID for Slack), and put them into the following environment variables:

  • AIRTABLE_BASE_ID - go to the Airtable API page, click your Volunteer Dispatch base, and the ID is there
  • AIRTABLE_REQUESTS_VIEW_URL - go to the Grid View of the Requests table in your Volunteer Dispatch base, and copy the URL (e.g.
  • AIRTABLE_VOLUNTEERS_VIEW_URL - go to the Grid View of the Volunteers table in your Volunteer Dispatch base, and copy the URL (e.g.
  • SLACK_XOXB - Slack bot token. To setup: create an app, add the OAuth chat:write bot scope, install the app to a channel, and grab the bot token
  • SLACK_SECRET - Slack app signing secret. Found in the 'Basic Information' section of your app on
  • SLACK_CHANNEL_ID - Slack channel ID (e.g. C0107MVRF08)

How to run

  • Clone this repo and navigate to the project root in your terminal.
  • Set the environment variables documented above.
  • Run make develop and the bot will start running, processing records every 15 seconds.

Setting up data backend

We store our data on Airtable. You can see the data and make your own copy with a single click here:

How we have it deployed

We use a tool called Shipyard to deploy the bot. In short, it compiles the Docker Compose file to Kubernetes manifests and deploys to a managed cluster.

Shipyard will host the bot for free for any mutual aid or relief organizations. Send a message to and they'll set you up with an account.


Slackbot to coordinate errand volunteering







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