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Donated computers help students into the future
By ANDREW MEACHAM
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 6, 2000
ST. PETERSBURG -- More than 20 people stepped into the information age recently, thanks to a local program that supplies reconditioned computers to learners of all ages. Plans on how to use the computers were as varied as the applicants themselves.
"It's a testimony," said missionary Johnnie Mae Howard, 64. "Jesus is everywhere. He was the first computer -- the first messenger."
Computers For Our Community, a coalition of organizations run almost exclusively by volunteers, has grown the past four years from an idea to a hands-on school whose graduates go home with working computers.
The Pentium machines on display at Pinellas Technical Education Center were donated by Tech Data Corp. Businesses and individuals have donated the makings of several hundred more computers -- six semitrailer loads of hard drives, monitors and keyboards, now stuffed into office space at PTEC and on Ulmerton Road.
Only two part-time staffers draw a paycheck from CFOC, a program richer in resources than money. Volunteers do the rest, including cleaning parts and installing Microsoft-donated Windows 95 and Office 97 software in all units. It's up to the new owners to supply their own modems or printers.
To get the computers, individuals or businesses applying must meet several criteria, including showing financial need and submitting statements about how they plan to use the machines. Those who qualify then take a 30-hour course (about 15 hours learning basic computer operations and the rest helping tutor fellow students) at the Sanderlin Family Services Center, administered by the Federation of Inner City Organizations and Weed and Seed.
Tatyanna Williams, 11, said she didn't mind being one of the youngest students in her class. As relatives loaded her computer into a Mazda sedan, Tatyanna, who will be a sixth-grader at Riviera Middle School, already knew what she would do with it: "Get home, plug it up, put in my Titanic CD, and play," she said, referring to a computer game available in stores.
Willette Williams, Tatyanna's mother, mentioned a book report due by the start of fall classes, an obligation the youngster acknowledged cheerfully enough.
"This is not just a one-time event. This is an investment in their future," said Paul Harris, a corporate training director at St. Petersburg Junior College and CFOC's chairman.
The program still needs IBM-compatible computers as well as more volunteers, Harris said. For more information on Computers For Our Community, call the United Way at 535-3545.
Future of shuffleboard court under discussion
The St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club is up for review. A consultant hired by the city's leisure services department on Tuesday will present the results of a study on the landmark lawn bowling and shuffleboard complex on Mirror Lake Park Boulevard. This will be the first of a series of public meetings on the complex, its overall condition and historic character, said John Green, director of capital improvements. The meeting will be 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Sunshine Center, 330 Fifth Ave. N.
In anticipation of the city's meeting, the North Downtown Neighborhood Association is holding an open board meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the offices of Rhode Clemmons Architects, 338 First Ave. N.
Candidate forum set at Sunshine Center
At least 17 candidates for public office are expected to appear at a town meeting 7 p.m. Monday at the Sunshine Center. The meeting is hosted by the Council of Neighborhood Associations and focuses on candidates for state representative, county commissioner and county court judge in September.
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