Meet the Data Coalition’s “One-Woman FEMA”


Friends of the Data Coalition know Sarah Joy Hays as the energetic director of our events and member relations. Since joining the the team in 2013, Sarah Joy (it’s a double name, not a middle name) has helped grow our organization from a few member companies to over thirty-five, while hosting nearly 6,000 people at Coalition events.

Just a few of the $30,000 worth of flood-relief supplies Sarah Joy Hays' friends and colleagues donated through an Amazon wish list.

Just a few of the $30,000 worth of flood-relief supplies Sarah Joy Hays’ friends and colleagues donated through an Amazon wish list.

When the Coalition’s leading companies decided to start the brand-new Data Foundation earlier this year, Sarah Joy took on similar duties for the Foundation as well. When the Foundation hosts Data Transparency 2016 next month – projected to be the nation’s largest-ever open data conference – Sarah Joy will be at the center of everything.

Sarah Joy and her son Henry live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, from where they both frequently commute to Washington, DC. On the weekend of August 12, Baton Rouge sustained 19 inches of rain, and some of its environs recorded over 30. Thirteen people died and more than 100,000 homes were destroyed.

The Hays home was spared. But Sarah Joy realized people around her needed help. And so she applied her well-honed logistical and people skills to deliver it.

Sarah Joy set up a GoFundMe page to support the purchase of flood victims’ immediate needs – supplies like pillows, diapers, socks, and medicine. Sarah Joy asked her far-flung network of friends and colleagues to donate – and over two weeks, they gave over $27,000. True to the spirit of transparency, Sarah Joy published the receipts of all the items she purchased.

Separately, an Amazon wish list allowed supporters to directly purchase needed items and have them delivered to the Hays home. Shipment after shipment arrived – over $30,000 in donated goods. An ad-hoc network of volunteers helped her deliver the all the supplies to churches, shelters, and organizations.

Sarah Joy is used to handling big, expensive events. She didn’t know those skills would also help her handle a much bigger, much costlier storm – to the great benefit of the people of the Baton Rouge area. In a write-up last week, OpportunityLives called Sarah Joy “a one-woman FEMA.”

A more typical day for Sarah Joy Hays (at center, with Data Coalition staff at last May's DATA Act Summit).

A more typical day for Sarah Joy Hays (at center, with the whole Data Coalition team at last May’s DATA Act Summit).

We are so proud to have Sarah Joy Hays as our friend and colleague at the Data Coalition.

And we recognize that Louisiana’s flood victims need much more help, and will be rebuilding for years to come. If you want to join us in support, you can donate, and learn more, on Sarah Joy’s GoFundMe page.