Computers for Children goes National

Computers for Children goes National

Computers for Children is partnering with like organizations across the country to create a national

Computers for Children of America will be based in Buffalo and will bring together community-based computer and technology refurbishing organizations nationwide. The group will partner with manufacturers, sponsors, foundations and supporters to provide resources and opportunities for members, said Christine Carr, director of the new organization.

"We have e-mails daily requesting, `Where can I send my computer,' " she said. "There is definitely a communication need amongst all these grassroots organizations. Secondly, all of them have financial needs we need to reach."

When Computers for Children started in 1997, founder Kevin Kelly learned there were a few similar organizations spread across the country. Today, Carr estimates there are more than 100 as the need for computers at home and in school increases.

"They come alive because they're fulfilling a niche," Carr said. "Parents and industry people have taken it upon themselves to form these organizations. What we look to do is go out and identify those who are most like Computers for Children and bring them under one umbrella to set standards, procedures, networking and, of course, sponsorships."

The organizations already have some contact, but on a limited basis.

"We get e-mails from all over the United States," Carr said. "When we get a request from California or Florida for a donation of equipment, the most natural response is to tell them we deal with the Western New York area and we look in those areas if there is something within that location that can fill that donor's needs."

The advantages to starting an association would include the ability to match potential donors of equipment and dollars with an organization in their area, as well as to increase communication between the organizations.

The group held a technology gala and fundraiser Dec. 6 to provide manufacturers the opportunity to display their products to business and civic leaders. Carr has also begun contacting other organizations, such as Computers for Youth, a New York City nonprofit that started in 1999 and takes donations of 50 or more computers at a time.

Computers for Children also has a strong relationship with HSBC, which is looking to help fund computer initiatives on a statewide basis. Carr has also sent proposals to Verizon and Microsoft, which have been strong supporters, as well as computer manufacturers IBM and Dell.

"When we've mentioned this to other businesses, they've thought it was a tremendous idea," Carr said. Most importantly, when we look to national sponsorships such as Dell or IBM, they want not to just put a little money on a pinpoint on a map, but know they're making an impression nationally. That's what's going to help make us able to support these other programs."

The organizations can also vary in what they provide. While Computers for Children restricts the type of computer it accepts to newer models it can upgrade to current standards, some other nonprofits simply clean up the computers and pass them through to local organizations. The local group also provides training for high school students, who build Pentium-level computers for themselves and area schools, and receive software certification training.

With a budget of about $750,000, Computers for Children employs three full time and one part time. It also has support staff from the VISTA and Americorps programs.