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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010 9 years ago

Leveling the playing field

Gift from God Computer Foundation supplies needy kids with used computers
by: Carmen Carroquino

Giving away 1,000 to 1,500 donated and refurbished computers every year, the Gift from God Computer Foundation is heaven sent to deliver computers to needy children in Central Florida.

Over the past five years, this non-profit organization has worked with local churches, charities and schools to see to it that children of any age can succeed in the classroom and in life.

Cindy Rosarius, co-founder with her husband, Paul, said that the reason for starting the organization was “to close the digital divide” some students without home computers were facing.

“Technology is the key to communication now,” she said. “Kids have to have computers at home to be successful in the classroom because virtually everything is done on them. … Without computers kids can fall behind. How can they compete with students that already have the technology?”

Computers received by the organization are wiped clean of all the previous owners’ usage and restored with a licensed operating system and common programs, such as Microsoft Office, before reaching their new owners.

The computers are refurbished within the organization solely by volunteers with computer backgrounds and students receiving academic credit for their services.

The organization has partnered with several programs, including a University of Central Florida business class, South Seminole Middle School seventh-graders and students participating in the Bright Futures Scholarship program, to not only help with the restoration of the computers, but with fundraising too.

The organization, which first started out as a group trip to Africa to donate computers to children suffering from AIDS, now combs its own backyard in search of those in need.

Beth Davalos, coordinator of Families in Transition for Seminole County Public Schools, said the five-year partnership with Gift from God has been incredible and life-changing for hundreds of homeless children struggling in school.

“Students are constantly given assignments to do on the computers,” she said. “In our efforts and Gift from God’s efforts we’re trying to level the playing field in the classroom where the standard is to have a computer.”

Already this year, Gift from God Computers has donated 168 computers to them with many more to come, Davalos said.

With 300 computers on hand and about 200 already given out this year, Rosarius said she is hopeful for not only more computer donations from individuals and corporations, but also for financial donations that will largely cover rent and refurbishing costs.

Gerry Myers, executive director, said the unfortunate decrease in computer donations can be attributed to the tough economic times, where people are holding on to them longer and selling them instead of donating.

So in need of funds and computers to further their mission, the organization looks forward to its annual fundraiser, the Computers for Kids Gala on March 28.

Despite the organization’s short time in the community, Rosarius said she hopes they have made an impact.

“My husband hopes we inspire a child that receives a computer to become president one day,” she said.

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