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JBS donates to PC's for People

Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe JBS Human Resources Director Jenny Andersen-Martinez presents Worthington District 518 Community Education Director Sharon Johnson a check for $2,000 toward a local PC's for People project.

WORTHINGTON -- A $2,000 donation by JBS to District 518 Community Education will soon put refurbished computers into the hands of families with young children in the community.

On Friday, JBS Human Resources Director Jenny Andersen-Martinez presented a check to Community Education Director Sharon Johnson to acquire 40 computers and establish a local PC's for People fund.

PC's for People, with five Minnesota locations, is a non-profit organization that collects donated personal computers from businesses, school districts and individuals, refurbishes them and makes them available to low-income Minnesotans.

The program has been available to local residents for the past year and a half, thanks to a grant from Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC). In that time, District 518 Community Ed and the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce partnered to distribute 35 computers to those who qualified.

The new partnership between Community Ed and JBS will focus on family access to computers.

"We are specifically targeting families with children ages 18 and younger," Johnson said. "Through Community Ed, we're focusing on getting computers into the homes of families with school-aged children or pre-school-aged children to try and help close the opportunities gap in our school district."

The partnership with JBS was forged after Martinez contacted Johnson about an Education Expo she was organizing at the local pork processing facility to educate employees about preschool and school programs.

"(Johnson) told me about this great project and it fits perfectly with what we're looking to do, which is find ways to help our employees help their kids and ultimately improve the achievement gap, the opportunities gap," Martinez said. "I think it's a very worthwhile project and will certainly help a lot of families."

Families who get a computer will be asked to pay a $50 fee, which will be deposited into a PC's for People fund so additional computers can be purchased to benefit more families. The computers are available to families who don't already own one.

"Our hope is that they'll use it for homework, but also that they'll be learning 21st century technology skills, and that not just the children will be learning those skills but the whole family can learn those technology skills," Johnson said.

Families who qualify for HeadStart or SNAP (food stamps), are refugees or veterans are among those eligible to apply.

While JBS is providing the seed money to start the program, Johnson said the program is open to any eligible Worthington families. Information will be distributed at JBS, but will also be at the Community Education office. The application forms are available at Community Ed, located at the West Learning Center, 117 11th Ave., Worthington.

"We'd like to see it become an ongoing program," Johnson said. "(Community Ed) will be the site where the computers are distributed from and the organization that helps identify the families that don't have a computer in their home."

The desktop computers include the monitor, keyboard, mouse, network card, power cord and possibly speakers. They come installed with Windows XP, and are between three and seven years old. Families would be responsible for getting and paying for Internet access.

Johnson hopes to complete the first distribution in September, and said a second distribution may be done a couple of months later or at the start of the next school semester.

"I don't have capacity to get everyone a computer right away, but I can put them on a list," Johnson said.

Eventually, Johnson would like to have the PC's for People Mobile Refurbishing Trailer come to Worthington. The three day visit includes a one-day collection for people to drop off their unwanted computers, a day to refurbish all of them and a final day to conduct a distribution in the community.

"They have done that in about 10 communities around the state," Johnson said. "It's an opportunity for businesses who are turning over computers or school districts and even individuals to be able to donate to the project."

Johnson credits the JBS Education Expo, conducted Aug. 10, for getting the PC's for People project started again.

"The education expo was a great partnership with the school districts and other organizations," she said. "It was a great opportunity for local organizations and educational institutions to share information with the employees here."

Martinez said JBS hopes to host the expo a couple of times per year, and she's excited about some of the outcomes of their first expo, particularly the partnership with Community Education.

"I think this is a great program and we're excited to be a part of it," she said. "I hope that a few years down the road we can say that every family in Worthington with children has a PC in their home."

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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