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Posted: June 14, 2019

Computer program success brings need for new funders

The Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce is looking to outside donors to help in supporting the ongoing Computer Donation Program, run as a partnership between the Cranbrook chamber, Kootenay Computer and the Salvation Army.

Kristin Parsons

“The success of this program has created a good problem. We have far surpassed our goal of 50 computers a year and already delivered 180 computers to families, individuals, schools and not-for-profits in the Cranbrook area and around the East Kootenay,” said Kristin Parsons, Executive Director, Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce.

“We are well ahead of our target and clearly the need for the program is evident not only locally but around the region,” continued Parsons.

Funding for the program was provided in part by a grant from Columbia Basin Trust along with donations of time, equipment and resources from each of the partners. Current funding is set to run out in mid-August 2019. The chamber has been actively searching for new grant opportunities to assist in providing the funds to keep the program running longer.

“We didn’t anticipate the program to be so popular; resources were used up quicker than expected to meet the demand of the program,” added Parsons.

Currently the chamber has been unsuccessful in their grant applications and are calling on the business community to help in supporting the program.

“We are still waiting to hear back on a few applications, but the deadline is approaching and the we don’t want to see the program stop due to funding. We have the partners in place to deliver the program including the staff, we just need more funding.”

In order to run the Computer Donation Program until the end of 2019, the chamber is looking to raise $6,000. For those looking to purchase a computer, Kootenay Computers is offering a refurbished laptop for $300 and desktop for $450. Monies raised by the sale of these computers will go directly into the Computer Donation Program to assist in delivering more computers to those in need.

For more information on the program, to purchase a computer or to make a donation please contact the chamber at 250-426-5914 or email: [email protected] or [email protected]

Computer Program History

In August of 2016, Kootenay Computer broached the Cranbrook Chamber with an idea to refurbish computers to help several refugee families and a few local charitable organizations that were unable to accommodate the purchase of a computer.

In accomplishing this goal, it became apparent there was a demonstrable and substantial need throughout the community. What started as a modest plan to refurbish redundant chamber equipment to donate to three refugee families, the Women’s Centre and the Boys and Girls Club has blossomed into a goal to help at least 50 families per year bridge the digital divide.

With the help of Columbia Basin Trust, the computer donation initiative has evolved to include critical partners to ensure the program is an unqualified, measurable and sustainable success.

The Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce has committed to working with the business community to collect redundant computer equipment and ensure secure storage of residual data until repurposing. The Chamber provides the staff time, coordination, work space and storage for the program at their offices.

The Salvation Army has partnered with the program to process and coordinate the distribution of the refurbished equipment. Their expertise in assessment and determination of need is invaluable and a key component to the program success.

Kootenay Computer, a registered Microsoft Refurbish Partner, takes the used equipment and ensures any proprietary data is wiped. The computers are brought up to current standards with new software, operating systems and virus protection.

The unexpected and most exciting outcome of the program is Shawn. Shawn is a young man in his early 20’s and a client of Cranbrook Community Services. Shawn is a developmentally challenged with a keen interest in computers. Shawn’s case worker brought him to the office on his first day as a very insecure person and an extreme introvert.

Shawn (pictured centre above) now works four days a week, refurbishing computers and is outgoing, confident and has been a great addition to the group that work at the various businesses located in the Chamber office. He has gone from days spent alone to being out in the community and making a real difference to others in need.

The digital divide is very real and certainly creates a barrier to those who cannot afford a computer. To apply for a job, register for a program, complete homework or check the transit schedule requires a computer. A computer at home has ceased being a luxury some time ago. With 180 donated computers to date and many more requests coming weekly, the Computer Donation Program is a huge success and well received throughout the region.

Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce


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