PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The Peoria Park District and Greater Peoria Economic Development Council collaborated with a Chicago non-profit to provide computers to low-income people, in an effort to increase digital inclusion and bridge the digital divide in underserved communities.
Community members on Thursday lined up to get a free desktop computer at the Proctor Center in Peoria. More than 60 computers were boxed, stacked, and ready for distribution.
The computers were provided by PCs for People, a non-profit in seven states that refurbishes donated computers then provides them to underserved communities at low or no cost. The computers were refurbished by the Chicago team then brought down to Peoria.
“The hope is to help them to be able to do school, [and] help their children to do schoolwork, [and] for them to be able to email and have the resources that they need for jobs, [and] to be able to apply for jobs as well. [We] just [want] to create a balance in their life when it comes to digital and technology, and make their life better,” said Khayla Perkins, Cook County Community Impact Manager at PCs for People.
Perkins said it’s a second life for computers that would otherwise end up in a landfill.
“It’s a great opportunity to be able to give people the devices to bridge the digital divide, and to continue to bring community members and organizations together for a greater cause,” she said.
Single mother Ravine Reynolds takes online classes at Illinois Central College. She said her new computer will make life easier.
“Sometimes you just can’t get new things, so this is something good to do for the community,” she said. “I was using an iPad and phone just to do my online classes, so now I’m able to use a desktop.”
Grace Clucas, an American Connection Corp fellow with Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, said the United States is the biggest user of technology, but not everyone is fortunate enough to have access.
“PCs for People bridges the gap in so many ways and helps get that technology back to people in the community before it reaches the landfills, which is amazing,” she said.
Clucas said it feels great to give back.
“For people that don’t have internet, or a computer, the obstacle to get connected is so large. So being able to help in any way, shape, or form, in this divide, is super important and that’s why this work is so valuable. The faces that they get when they get their computers is something I will never forget,” she said.
Clucas said 57 people signed up for the free computers, but there were multiple walk-ins. They expect to give out between 65-70 computers.
Perkins said PCs for People serves communities up to three hours from Chicago. She said they hope to give out 10,000 computers by the end of the year.
“We also love to partner with people, other organizations that are trying to bridge digital divides, and we’re always sourcing…Community work is at the center of my heart. It’s always been the focal point of my life. So I just love giving back to the community,” said Perkins.