COLUMBIA – An annual recycling program brought together education and extra electronics to help out families in need.
On Saturday morning, the Voluntary Action Center, Downtown Optimist Club and the city of Columbia gave away 35 computers to families in need. To qualify, families needed to have a child in the Columbia Public School District, not own a computer and have financial need.
Cindy Mustard, executive director of the Voluntary Action Center, said a total of 56 families applied. Names were drawn out of a hat to determine the winners.
"It's important to level the playing field for kids," Mustard said. "I think computers in the home will help the gap in education."
This is the sixth year for Homes for Computers, an annual program. Computers that are scheduled to be replaced are collected from city departments and prepared for the program.
The city would only receive $200 in exchange for the equipment if it were recycled.
Since the program began, a total of 223 computes have been donated from the city of Columbia through Homes for Computers.
Individuals and families in the group receiving the donations said that they plan to use their new technology for activities such as job searches, homework and keeping connected with friends and family.
"I am going to do online classes, so I really need the the computer," recipient Salena Preston said.
Another recipient, Winnie Burks, said she plans to write a mystery novel about a football quarterback. She said she has been writing the story in her head for about 20 years now, and cannot wait to start on the computer.
The group also received a lesson about computer usage about everything from viruses to keeping kids safe on the Internet.
"You have to set rules for kids and put the computer in a place where everybody knows what everybody is doing," said Andy Anderson, Detective for Mid-Missouri Crimes Task Force, who taught the lesson.
Anderson continued his speech by addressing further problems for the families to be aware of, such as identity theft and scams. He explained that the world of child pornography and Internet predators is especially dangerous to children.
"Junior high kids were the most apt to fall to victim," Anderson said.
After learning how to protect themselves and their children, the families picked up their computers.
Volunteers helped show how to plug in and hook up the computers and informed the group of various programs to ease them into getting started. On a regular basis, Daniel Boone Regional Library offers courses for families to become more familiar with basic software and hardware.
"The best thing is we are giving computers with little monetary value to the city to people that need them," Lee Britt, Volunteer Coordinator for Columbia, said.