"They're getting fuel to those stalled on info superhighway"
By Jim Namiotka RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL Tuesday, March 17, 1998
ComputerCorps: Carson City group
does its part to bridge technology gap.'
In the past, there has been talk of the
generation gap, the gender gap and the income gap.
Since January, there has been a group at
work in Carson City to narrow what it calls the "technology gap."
Founders of Computer Corps says the
world becomes increasingly computer-driven, a new class division is being
created: Those who have access to computers and those who do not.
ComputerCorps' mission, they say, is to
provide computers for those people in northern Nevada who do not have the money
or the ability to take advantage of the power and communication tools computers
offer. To do that, all the group needs is a few old computers and a handful of
"We refurbish them, give them new life and put them back out into the community," ComputerCorps (co)-founder Ron Norton said Monday. Most of the computers the group retools are collected from businesses or households that have upgraded their systems
Training director Traci Ferrante said
one man's trash, with a little work, becomes another man's treasure. Entire
systems once destined for the landfill instead head to schools, social service
agencies, senior citizens groups, youth programs and other organizations that
normally can't afford to buy computers.
"In the business community, it's
something that has no value or little value anymore," Ferrante said.
"In the social community, it has tremendous value."
Since its debut in January,
ComputerCorps has turned hundreds of discarded computers into new systems for
dozens of groups Carson City, Douglas, Storey and Lyon counties. It has provided
upgraded systems for school districts and social service groups. In January, the
nonprofit agency helped repair nearly a dozen computers at the Boys & Girls
Club in Carson City wrecked when an overhead water line burst and showered water
in the agency's computer room.
On Monday, ComputerCorps tuned over
systems to the Jacks Valley Volunteer Fire Department and Nevada Hispanic
Services in Carson City.
Nevada Hispanic Services had received
the donated computers a year ago, but lacked the money to put them to use. So
they took the machines to ComputerCorps and picked up their usable computers
We'll be able to have more access for
the kids wanting them to reports and homework,"
Nevada Hispanic Services director Rachel Knecht said Monday. "We just didn't have the funds to get computers or have these refurbished. This is ideal for people like us who don't have the funds."
ComputerCorps collects small fees from groups that can afford to pay, but doesn't turn anyone away for financial reasons. The nonprofit agency is supported, in large part, by ...a for-profit computer networking, programming and consulting firm that ...donates... office space ..to.. ComputerCorps. Norton owns ...(the consulting firm)... where Ferrante is employed.
Nearly all proceeds from the for-profit go to aid the nonprofit, Ferrante said. But for the bulk of its work, ComputerCorps relies on volunteers.
Among the ranks of volunteer workers is 15-year-old Brett, a Carson High sophomore who contacted ComputerCorps about a month ago after reading news reports of the new group. He said he had tinkered with computers and electronics in the past, but learned how to dissemble and reassemble them through ComputerCorps.
The training and his estimated two hours a day of volunteer work will open "all kinds of new opportunities" to him, he said.
Larry Booth was retired from a career as a mainframe programmer with Allstate Insurance when he answered a local advertisement for people with computer expertise. Since then, he has used his experience in programming to guide him in a new, volunteer career working on the hardware side of computers.
"What we have been able to learn on the job is incredible," Booth said. "It's low-end technology, but it serves a lot of need."
ComputerCorps continues to recruit volunteers to refurbish computer equipment and also help in the conversion of its headquarters -- the former foreman's quarters of the original Morgan Mill along the Carson River -- to house a new computer training center.
With corporate sponsorships and community donations, the group plans to implement Phase II of its mission: computer training for young people. The group hopes to raise money and open its
Carson City training center later this year. It will be followed by other modular training centers in other cities around northern Nevada, Ferrante said.
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