Computers for Families

By on Apr 3, 2017 in Giving

Since 1996, Computers for Families (CFF) has provided compCFFuters and Internet access to low-income families in the Santa Barbara area. The inventory is comprised of donations from local businesses, organizations, and South Coast residents.

The need for accessible technology continues to grow. Executive Director Chelsea Pacino Duffy explains, “Despite the fact that technology is more prevalent today than it was when the program first began, we continue to see a steady need for both computers and internet access as demonstrated by nearly 600 families who attend our computer distributions each year.”

The distributions benefit families who demonstrate the greatest need. CFF collaborates with Santa Barbara County teachers to identify students who lack access to educational technology at home. Before being able to take a computer home, families receive guidance on device maintenance and program usage. After their training, families choose their computer and take it home.

“We’ve became aware of how technology training for parents is just as important, if not more so, as is having a computer in the home. So we are currently working to expand our training efforts to help parents be better supporters of their children’s education,” says Duffy.

To date, CFF has contributed more than 11,000 computers to Santa Barbara households. The initiative aims to help students stay engaged in school. Access to educational technology also gives students the competitive edge needed to succeed in the workplace as adults.

Internet access is an equally important resource for today’s students. CFF educates computer recipients on the availability of the Connect2Compete (C2C) program at Cox Communications. C2C connects families to low-cost broadband internet services so that they can get the most out of their devices.

CFF has recently expanded those offering thanks to a new grant.

“We have been lucky to work with the California Emerging Technology Fund through a Frontier-sponsored grant this year,” says Duffy. “Through the grant, any family that signs up discounted internet–whether it be Frontier, Cox, or another provider—is qualified to receive a free Chromebook. To receive this offer, families simply need to submit proof of installation in the form of their first bill. Computers for Families staff is providing support to families who need help signing up for discounting internet.”

The combined programs are already changing lives. Duffy recalls a recent experience:

A single mother of four struggled to provide reliable internet access for her four children. The only access she could provide was through a smartphone. Unfortunately, each of the kids began to fall behind in their studies; many school assignments required the use of a computer, internet research, or digital presentations.

During parent/teacher conferences, the mother voiced her concerns. The teacher mentioned Computers for Families.

“The mother didn’t know that the program existed,” says Duffy. “She could not believe that she could receive a free desktop computer. While meeting with staff, she also shared about her issues getting internet access.”

CFF staff invited the mother to the upcoming distribution fair where she received a desktop computer for her family. She also qualified for discounted internet through Frontier and a free Chromebook.

“She was amazed by the many options available to her and that CFF was able to help her,” says Duffy. “As a result of this support, those four children will be able to do their homework that required internet and computer access.”

Community support doesn’t stop there. CFFpartners with the Los Prietos Boys Camp, a residential rehabilitation program for young men. The teen boys receive training on computer repair and tech support, and also assist CFF distribution events and provide assistance to families.

Through their involvement with CFF distribution events, the young men learn customer service and leadership skills. Their training may ultimately lead to additional education and career opportunities.

Yardi is a proud supporter of Computers for Families. By donating 75 desktops and 150 laptops last year, the premiere software company provides opportunities for local children to excel academically and professionally.

To show your support for Computers for Families, South Coast businesses and residents can make donations between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, at the Santa Barbara County Education Office.