Charities Unite to Provide Laptops for Children in Need

The Giving Coast

Pictured: Mark Sharff (far right) and other volunteers provide laptops to children who are greatly appreciative. Photo courtesy of Mark Sharff.

"You cannot function without connectivity in this world," says Mark Sharff, Guardian ad Litem and mentor for Take Stock in Children in Manatee County. For this reason, Sharff has been going door-to-door for the past 7 or 8 years to pick up idle laptops from people who no longer use them so that they might be used by children in need. This year, The Manatee School for the Arts donated 963 laptops through The Children’s Guardian Fund, which provides laptops to children in foster care, and Take Stock in Children Manatee which provides mentors, resources and college scholarships to economically disadvantaged students. According to Sharff, securing so many laptops from one single location was a record-breaking win this year.

Sarasota Technology User's Group (STUG) has a mission to rehab the old laptops and prepare them for use for a child in need. A team of volunteers with the organization diligently wipes each hard drive as a primary step to refurbish the computers. All the laptops are then loaded with software, including Microsoft Office Suite under free license from Microsoft Corporation. Underserved children are then able to use the computers for school work, which helps them to reach or stay on grade level. David Mancuso, the director for IT at the Manatee School for the Arts, said the computers could no longer run the security software they needed for testing. Otherwise the computers were in good shape so he wanted to make sure they went to groups that could use them. Since the refurb group began the program, the tech volunteers have refurbished 19,863 computers. The recycling program keeps computers from ending up in in landfills while simultaneously addressing community connectivity needs. Any that are not used are properly recycled, and always the information on any unit is highly protected with a high-tech data wiping process.

"Our partners at STUG and generous community members who donate used technology are transforming the lives of our local foster children by making sure they can compete academically,” said Svetlana Ivashchenko, executive director for the Children’s Guardian Fund, one of the beneficiary organizations of the laptop refurbishing effort. “Having the right tools matters and our kids are so appreciative of the donated laptops."

Sharff is happy to collect equipment donations from individuals, businesses and organizations such as churches and service clubs. To donate a computer, contact Mark Sharff at (941) 374-1107 or msharff@gmail.com.

Pictured: Mark Sharff (far right) and other volunteers provide laptops to children who are greatly appreciative. Photo courtesy of Mark Sharff.

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