KC nonprofit addresses technology shortage during pandemic with donated computers

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The new reality of going to school and working online from home is a big challenge for many metro families without access to technology. 

To help fix that, a major effort aims to get computers where they are needed most, and you can help in the efforts to bridge the digital divide.

Shelves in a huge West Bottoms warehouse are normally jam packed with computers. But right now, they’re emptying, fast. Kansas City non-profit Connecting For Good is seeing record demand for computers from families in need.

“Conservatively, we think between 5,000 and 10,000 families are lacking computers at home right now who have school children that need to keep up with school work. So that’s kind of the number we are targeting to try and address,” Tom Esselman, CEO of Connecting For Good, said.

In just the past couple weeks, Connecting For Good has delivered 400 computers to help meet the need. Parents like Angel Bailey have been coming to the warehouse in a steady stream in desperate need of new technology.

“We all have phones, but you just can’t do some things from a phone, like the Zoom app they have us doing, and then also Class Dojo and emails, and it’s like, you can only open one window,” Bailey, who is a mother of three, said. “It’s really hectic and confusing.”

It takes a lot of work from technicians to wipe computers of stored data, refurbish the machines and deliver them to those in need. 

“You’ve heard this term, ‘digital divide,’ and we’ve been around… for eight years, working on this issue,” Esselman said. “It’s crazy how it takes a crisis like this for global awareness and understanding to start happening about what an incredible issue this is and all the families who have lacked access to technology tools at home.”

Community partnerships are critical for keeping them in stock and keeping their mission going.

This month, Connecting For Good got 500 gently used computers from Kansas City, Mo. City Hall.  Thanks to a new laptop challenge issued to area employers by the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, the organization is hoping even more devices are donated.

“These are crazy times, and this isn’t something every employer is going to be in a position to take advantage of, but we also hear from employers that are in a position to do something in the community and are looking for opportunities they can make a difference. People on my team, people who have gone through this process, will tell you it’s one of the most rewarding things to do,” Jeremy Hegle, senior community development advisor for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, said.

For families receiving the computers, it is making a world of difference in adapting to the new norm of work and school at home.

“It is a blessing for real,” Bailey said.

Donations of computers can be dropped off at the Connecting for Good warehouse in the West Bottoms.  They ask you call (816) 559-7077 or email ahead at info@connectingforgood.org to make an appointment. 

Pick-up is also available for companies with large numbers of computers to donate. If you’re outside the immediate Kansas City area, you can search for a certified computer refurbisher accepting donations at donatetechnology.org.  

Companies wanting to get involved in the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank’s #LaptopChallenge can visit KansasCityFed.org/LaptopChallenge.  Employers can also donate desktop computers, and are encouraged to take a photo of the donation and share it on LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #LaptopHero to encourage others to take action.

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