08/03/14 — Optimist Club holds its annual computer event

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Optimist Club holds its annual computer event

By John Joyce
Published in News on August 3, 2014 1:50 AM

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Alande Lambert, 6, counts on his fingers while playing a math game at the Optimist Club of Goldsboro while his parents apply for a computer during the club's open house event.

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From left, Raymond Clark and Jewel Wilson, members of the Optimist Club of Goldsboro, bring donated parts into the storage room during the club's open house event on Saturday afternoon.

Goldsboro Optimist Club president Raymond Clark said there are two key issues heading into the 2014-15 Wayne County school year.

The first is that kids today must be computer literate to succeed in the classroom.

Secondly, not every family can afford a computer in the home.

"It's as important as knowing how to read and write was back when I was in school," Clark said.

Computers 4 Kids is a program started by Optimist Club member Charlie Wood that sees donated computers refurbished before they are sold at discounted prices to low-income families in Wayne County.

The program is in its third year.

Wood said the idea came to him a few years back when Clark asked him to fix his daughter's computer.

"I was able to fix it, and Bill (Edgerton), who was president at the time, had just given out a challenge for members to come up with new ideas," Wood said.

His idea was to provide computers to families in need, not only so students would have access to the learning tool, but to bring those families together around an instrument that could serve them all, he said.

Children can, of course, use the computers to complete homework and research things they are curious about.

But parents and older siblings can use them, too, to look for jobs and find services.

"It struck me as maybe something I could do," he said.

And he did.

The first step was securing licensing for new software.

When Wood receives a donated computer, he wipes it completely clean and rebuilds it from the inside out. For it to work properly again requires an operating system, which can be expensive.

Through Microsoft, Wood was able to find a program that allows him to install a Windows operating system on each computer he refurbishes for a licensing fee of just $6.

"Without that, we would not be able to afford to do any of this," he said.

The Optimist Club receives donated computers and parts and cash donations to help pay for Computers 4 Kids. Most of the money that supports the program, though, comes from selling the computers.

Price points range from $50 -- for which the buyer gets a 64-bit computer with two gigabytes of memory -- to as low as $30 for a computer with less memory and an operating system designed to support just enough data to make it user-friendly for kindergartners through third-graders.

"The can do math, paint, learn to type," Wood said.

And there is a geography application that teaches children the names and locations of every country in the world -- including all their states or provinces.

A family of any student, grades K-12, in Wayne County Schools can apply through the Optimist Club to become eligible to purchase a refurbished computer.

The club distributes the computers once a month throughout the year, but is seeking to get the word out ahead of the coming school year.

"We usually work with the school social workers and guidance counselors to identify students in need," club member and former president Bill Edgerton said.

This year, the club put out fliers at the Goldsboro Family Y, in the Fairview Homes family center and in several downtown businesses.

"If a student begins to lag behind, a lack of a computer might be why," Edgerton said.