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City computers find new homes

Saturday, February 16, 2008 | 4:10 p.m. CST; updated 4:54 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008
Jeremy Jacobi, left, a volunteer for the Homes for Computers program explains how to use Windows to Breana Johnson, 9, on Saturday.

COLUMBIA — Paula Johnson understands the importance of technology in her children’s education.

For this reason, she chose to enter her family’s name in the Home for Computers program drawing, organized by the city of Columbia, the Downtown Optimist Club and the Voluntary Action Center.

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In its fifth year, the program provides surplus city computers to families with children in Columbia public schools who don’t have a computer at home. The program distributed 30 computers to families at the Downtown Optimist Club Clubhouse on Saturday morning.

“I’m glad they have the program,” Johnson said. “Kids definitely need computers and definitely need to learn about the Internet. There are lots of opportunities and jobs with computers.”

Johnson brought her two children, Breana and Sandtara, with her to pick up the computer she won. Johnson said both of her daughters, ages 9 and 15, have a lot of school work to do on computers and up until now, they’ve been having to go to school early or use computers at the public library to complete their homework.

“They are really excited to be able to have this at home,” Johnson said.

The computers come from city offices after their computers are upgraded. Cindy Mustard, executive director of the Voluntary Action Center, said that before the creation of the Home for Computers program, city computers were sold to MU’s surplus property division.

“By the end of today, 188 computers will have been donated to families through this program,” Mustard said. “We know we’re giving them good, working computers, along with a new modem, mouse pad and information about free computer classes the families can take at the public library.”

Mustard, along with representatives from the Downtown Optimist Club and the city, were present to help distribute the computers Saturday.

Jeremy Jacobi, a 20-year-old volunteer, also helped out.

Jacobi graduated from high school in Columbia in 2006 and heard about the program after he graduated. He said he likes to help distribute the computers to put his technology skills to use.

“I come out here volunteering to show people how to hook up their computers,” Jacobi said. “I think its something every city should have.”

Whenever a new computer recipient walked through the door Saturday morning, Jacobi and the six volunteers from Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity would immediately surround the family, eager to show them how the computer worked and then to help them carry it out to their car.

“It was a pretty early morning for us,” Sigma Tau Gamma President Ryan Morimura said. “But once we got here and saw the reaction of the little kids here who are just so excited, it was definitely worth it.”

Jennifer Tiff, a volunteer with the Christian Fellowship Church’s refugee ministry, came to the Downtown Optimist Club with a man named Bernard to help him pick up a computer for his family. Bernard, a refugee from the African country of Burundi, did not speak English, but Tiff said he has children enrolled in Columbia Public Schools who will use the computer at home.

Mustard said 38 families applied to receive city computers this year. To apply for next year’s Home for Computers Program, contact the Voluntary Action Center. For information about how you can recycle your old computer equipment, contact Mid-Missouri Recycling at 474-3997.


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