Volunteering & Giving
November 5, 2015

Volunteers ‘get their geek on’ to refurbish computers for students

Wells Fargo volunteers refurbished 230 computers for students in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to help bridge the digital divide.

With a few quick keystrokes, third-grader Antoinette Pate had her new computer up and running.

The family’s first computer also means that mom Deannea now can log in to monitor her daughter’s progress at Konnoak Elementary School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

“The new computer is great,” Deannea says. “It’s a lot more convenient than going to the library and makes it easier for Antoinette to do her homework.”

Antoinette was among 110 Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School students awarded computers in a mass refurbishing of desktop PCs. About 170 Wells Fargo volunteers in Winston-Salem participated in what is termed a “Geek-a-Thon” Sept. 17–19 to refurbish the computers.

The effort was led by Kramden Institute, a nonprofit based in Durham, North Carolina, to bridge the digital divide and close the “homework gap.” Directed by Kramden’s staff, the Wells Fargo volunteers inspected and cleaned the donated computers, replaced hard drives, added memory cards, and loaded software onto the machines.

“The ‘homework gap’ is the difference between kids who have all the technology they need at home versus those who don’t,” says Michael Abensour, Kramden’s executive director. “That’s what we’re trying to do — solve the homework gap and make sure kids get all the technology tools and training they need at home.”

According to Governing magazine, between 25 and 30 percent of the U.S. population is caught in the digital divide, lacking basic computer skills, home computers, or internet access. The organization’s study says 26 percent of Winston-Salem’s households are digitally disconnected.

WinstonNet, a Winston-Salem nonprofit that has worked for more than 15 years to close the digital divide in Forsyth County, helped with event logistics and worked with the schools to identify students for the computer awards. It operates more than 30 computers labs and provides free computer training.

Wells Fargo volunteers refurbish computers for Geek-A-Thon.
Wells Fargo volunteers refurbish the next batch of computers destined for students.

A $20,000 Wells Fargo grant to Kramden and WinstonNet paid for the event.

Cari DelMariani, Kramden’s director of programs, says Wells Fargo volunteers refurbished all 230 computers the nonprofit brought to Winston-Salem. In addition to the 110 awarded to local students, she says the 120 other computers will go to other students in the state.

Since its founding in 2003, Kramden has awarded more than 21,000 computers to students in North Carolina.

Yvette Jackson, an operations clerk with Wells Fargo, and Joe Freeman, of the company’s Abbot Downing business, say they’re glad they took part.

“I volunteered because I enjoy doing anything that will help the kids,” Yvette says. “I’m always working on someone’s computer, whether it be my mother, some of her friends, or my friends.”

Winston-Salem student uses computer received at Geek-A-Thon.
Antoinette is using her first computer for homework and school projects.

Joe wound up volunteering on two days, doing triage on the machines, which included replacing hardware, uploading and testing software, and helping train the students how to use the computers.

“My role was to teach each child how to connect their monitor, computer, and mouse and plug them in once they got home as well as run the educational software,” Joe says. “The excitement of each family receiving a machine was tremendous.”

Kramden has done 15 Geek-a-Thons since 2003, using donated equipment. In 2014 alone, the nonprofit received more than 10,000 desktops, 2,600 laptops, and thousands of monitors, computer mice, and keyboards awarded to more than 3,500 students. It also recycled reused and recycled more than 250,000 pounds of computers.

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