Thursday, October 9, 2008

Computers for Families program nears campaign goal


Gathered at Hollister School, the birthplace of the Computers for Families program, local officials and community leaders celebrated a challenge grant that, if successful, will complete a campaign to endow the project in perpetuity.
Since 1997, the program has placed more than 7,000 refurbished computers in the homes of local students from low-income families. Three years ago, leaders launched a $4 million sustainability campaign and are within $250,000 of their goal.

“We’re just about at the finish line,” County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone said. “We just need that very last push.”
Yesterday, officials announced a $125,000 challenge grant by Bacara Resort and Spa to give that final bump.
“All the naysayers said it can’t be done,” Cirone said, adding that critics argued they were asking for too much money and competing with too many other campaigns. “Well, they were wrong.”
Alvin Dworman, owner of Bacara Resort and Spa, had previously donated $100,000 to the campaign last year through his foundation. Now he will match any donation to the campaign in the next six months, up to $125,000.
With education as a keystone of Dworman’s philanthropy, resort officials said the Computers for Families program is a great fit and deserved another grant.
“The power and impact of this model program is profoundly important in the lives of our community’s most impoverished children,” BJ Hoppe, president of Bacara Resort and Spa, said in a prepared statement. “It is key to giving local children the ability to one day become successful members of the technology-based world.”
Overseen by the Santa Barbara Partners in Education and school officials, the program is designed to eliminate the “digital divide” among students in the community.
In addition to providing students with computers, discounted Internet access and training, the Computers for Families project also helps teachers develop technology-based curriculum.
Kristine White, coordinator of the program, said local businesses, libraries, hospitals and individuals donate computers as they upgrade to new systems. The computers are then refurbished, either by program staff or youth at the Los Prietos Boys Camp.
She said students receiving computers through the project often bring family members to the distribution events — emblematic of how significant the gift is to local families.
“They’re delighted,” White said. “They are just ecstatic. … It levels the playing field for everyone.”
More information about the Computers for Families program is available online at or by calling 964-4711, ext. 5400.

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