Leavenworth A small computer store is making a big impact on the lives of hundreds of local residents who could not otherwise afford to be a part of the Internet age.
Bobby McKinzie and Debra Kendall, co-owners of Computers-R-Us and Computers Endeavors, have been refurbishing used computers and giving them away for the last three years. Most of the recipients have been students from low-income families.
But there have been exceptions, such as Mary Pape, a homebound woman who asked for a computer so she could stay in contact with her friends.
They not only gave her the computer, they also helped train her on how to use it.
"She said that she was just so thrilled and so thankful to us for providing the computer," Kendall said. "It opened up a whole new world for her."
McKinzie came up with the idea for the giveaway through his involvement with a service program dubbed Volunteers in Service to America. As part of a project with the program, he wanted to find a way to satisfy a need in the community.
"It was an easy fit because computers are his thing and he's got all this stuff left over from his business repairing computers," Kendall said.
She said the idea also grew from her work with a youth publication in area schools, where she saw that many students needed computers in their homes for homework and communication.
"We've given away, in the last two years, well over 200 computer systems," she said.
Most of the computers the two give away come from the Fort Leavenworth, Leavenworth and Lansing school districts. Kendall said that when the districts acquire new computers, they notify McKinzie.
"When they buy new equipment and they upgrade, their old equipment is up for grabs, so to speak," Kendall said.
The program also accepts donations from individuals, she said, adding that there are about 20 families on the waiting list to get a computer. They all eventually will get one, she said.