Saturday, December 19, 2009

Charity Changes You

If anyone had told me that starting a charity would change me so much as a person I would not have believed them. After all I am a Christian and I've always been charitable. I've given a little time to Salvation Army , the Old Newsnboys, Global Connections, Special Olympics, and a number of other charities over the years. I volunteer at my church and put my money in the plate. I've worked hard at showing random acts of kindness to those around me. As I pointed out in a previous blog, every little bit helps.

There is something entirely different about taking on a cause that no one else seems to be championing and trying to make it work. Gone are the days of volunteering for a day or an event and getting on with my life. With Computers for Charity, over the last year I have had to work constantly with every spare moment at my disposal. I have become the CEO, CTO, Marketer, Promoter, Web Developer, Organizer, Speaker, Fundraiser, Volunteer Coordinator, Event Planner, and all around Laborer.

At first there was just me working on computers form my home in Bowling Green, Ohio. Then there were a few other volunteers; namely, Kimberlie Morris and Richard Rowold who helped me with office type tasks. We moved into Turning Point Church in downtown Bowling Green in a little room next to the Sanctuary. It was adequate and we were grateful to be able to provide a service through the church that no one else was providing. As we began to meet needs in our church and beyond one thing became apparent. There was no shortage of needs, rather a shortage of time and talent to meet them.

I started advertising through the internet and joining social networking sites to promote the effort and to solicit computers parts and volunteers. I signed up for environmental, recycling, and technological oriented sites who shared common interests and visions. I joined Techsoup and became a a Microsoft Authorised Refurbisher. I joined several Open Source communities and began to participate in them. I also joined Wood County Area Ministries and other charity organizations that are working to meet diverse needs in our local community.

As the word began to spread and the donations increased we began to run out of room. We also began to get more volunteers. As individuals came to drop off equipment and saw the scope of our vision they wanted to help in some way. As we provided computers for people they too were inspired by our effort and we quickly found a place for them within the organization. The need to move into a bigger space and to get out from under Turning Points limiting tax structure became apparent. We would need to write receipts for donations and do fund raising to be able provide the type of service that we wanted to and to plan for future expansion.

We formed a Board of Directors who's sole purpose would be to handle the paperwork involved in the formation of a non profit. We found it would be easier to obtain a 501 (c) (3) through the Methodist Church than it would be to tackle this on our own so we worked with the West Ohio Conference of the UMC to set that up. The important thing was to remain a non-sectarian/secular charity under a faith based organization. Our vision is to become another one of the great charities that have sprung forth form the church and now have a vital role in the public life of our society.

The mixing of secular and sacred for the cause of charity is nothing new for the Methodist church. Just look at other great efforts such as the Methodist Hospitals, Nursing Homes, food banks, job training, and children services to name a few. With a great tradition of charity and social action, the Methodist church has a longstanding record of meeting people at the point of their needs. That is the part of the gospel I hoped to fulfill through Computers for Charity. Living a life of service to the community is a tall order. As Jesus healed all who would come to him and fed the masses, we hope to meet a very significant need in our modern culture. Access to a computer has become more than just a want.

So we obtained our Non Profit Status and moved into a bigger room, with a separate office upstairs. We now have room to host computer classes which we are formulating now. I also have developed a presentation to demonstrate the reason why refurbishing and reusing electronics is preferable both in an environmental and a humanitarian sense. I plan on taking this message to as many churches and other organizations in our community as will have me.

We've made great strides in organizing our collection and recycling methods as well as our record keeping and office work. We have over 20 volunteers who come on an irregular basis and we hope to soon have a weekly staff of at least 10 dependable volunteers. We continue to reach out to other charities and non-profits who's services we hope to enhance by our own. We also want to partner with the local ISPs to be able to provide a discounted internet service to clients who receive a computer form us.

Living a life of service to others is a tranformative experience as well. God has given us each a purpose in life and the skills to achieve that purpose. Finding a way to meet the needs of others through our God given talents is a fulfillment of the gospel and of our own potential. We begin to think less about the My, Me, Mines, and our own needs become less significant in the face of others struggling with basic and more complex problems than our own.
  • The 30 year old woman who was recently handicapped and is now living in an assisted nursing facility who desires a computer so she can go to school online and still make something of her life.
  • The Grandmother who is caring for her granddaughter and wants her to be able to do her schoolwork at home as opposed to walking across town to the library daily.
  • The newly unemployed worker who lost a lifetime job and needs a computer to search for a new position.
  • The single mother who is struggling at meeting the basic needs of her family and would like her children to have access to technology so they are prepared for the modern world of education and employment.
  • The college student on a tight budget who needs to have access to research and educational materials online.
  • The Elderly person who simply wants to keep in touch with their family the way we do nowadays, through email and social networking.
  • The mentally and physically handicapped, to whom access to technology can be an equalizing factor and provide a way to connect with others and overcome the limitations placed on them by society.
This is about a lot more than providing computers for people, it is about providing hope. Providing a way for people to obtain an independence as well as an interdependence with the modern communities that are part of our lives. Bridging a digital divide that has shrunk considerably in recent years, but for those behind the divide, how much deeper it has become. My heart aches for all of the clients we help. As we meet the needs of those in our community I had to throw away all prejudice and pretensions. I've had to ask myself what I would do if my most hated enemy came to us for help. The answer is help them in any way that I can.

As the charity has grown, I have grown as a person in ways i never imagined. It is a process that has helped me to heal many of my own personal wounds. I hope to share this experience and this journey with as many of you as possible. We continue to grow and are heading in exciting new directions. As we wrap up the Computers for Christmas project we will move on to the next big project. I'm looking forward to seeing what challenges and opportunities 2010 is going to bring us! You don't wanna miss it!

God bless you and see you Tuesday.

Jeffrey Kill
Founder and CTO
Computers for Charity

1 comment:

  1. Very nicely said. I think it has changed us all. Thanks for allowing us to be a part of this.


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