In January, the EDA Board and I agreed to end the LqP Computer Commuter program at the end of 2016, based on our finances and the dim prospect of further grant awards.
In April, we learned of a $35,000 bequest from a Madison resident who had passed away last fall, and that the bequest had to be matched. So, in addition to the In Kind Services already provided to the program daily, we needed to raise matching dollars by July 31.
21 entities responded, 19 within our county. Adult Basic Education and the Blandin Foundation both donated generously, but it is the local, across-the-county support I find so meaningful.
The 19 local donors, made up of individuals and organizations within the 6 communities the bus serves, donated $16,450. The additional funds from Adult Basic Education and the Blandin Foundation raised the total amount to $41,450, exceeding the $35,000 maximum match. In the end, we landed with a total of $76,450 added to our coffers.
Given the amount raised and matched, the LqP Computer Commuter should operate through 2017, 2018 and in to 2019 – again dependent on expenses (bus maintenance and gas prices).
Quoting Linda Nickell of the TDF Foundation, an original supporter: “Congratulations, Mary! Lac qui Parle is an amazing community!”
Indeed it is, Linda, indeed it is.
The EDA Board and Mary Quick both agree December 31, 2016 will be the last day for the LqP Computer Commuter. Our innovative program is in its 6th year of operation and continues to offer free services at 6 different sites in Lac qui Parle County. We have the funding to finish 2016 and realize we probably won’t win new grant money to carry us into 2017.
Through partnerships, collaborations, and generous grants and donations, the Computer Commuter program has meant access to computers, internet and help for our County residents.
In the past, we offered:
- Classes for businesses to develop an online presence
- Free access to Ancestry.com
- Local retail discounts for learning technology skills
- A county-wide delivery system for both public libraries
Computer Commuter users are faithful supporters, earnest learners and advocates of equal access to technology. It has been fun and highly rewarding to be a part of this unique program that other regions wish they could emulate.
Here is the quick take:
What Does the Computer Commuter Do?
The Computer Commuter provides digital inclusion by traveling 150 miles weekly, visiting six different sites in LqP County, providing digital literacy by offering on-site, one-to-one assistance. We served 1047 people last year. People generally stayed for more than an hour per visit – in fact 1400 hours of computer were clocked in on the bus.
What Does It Cost?
The Computer Commuter operating budget is $24,000. We get funding from Adult Basic Education, Madison Public Library and Dawson Public Library (Thank you to all!) but it doesn’t cover expenses.
What Do We Need?
We need $900 per month ($10,800 annually) to keep going. We are applying for a range of grants but grants are precarious. We are hoping that the County Commission will support the Computer Commuter. We coudl use your help. If you think the Computer Commuter is a worthy investment, please let them know.
We are passionate about what we do because we see the difference we make in the community. LqP is one of the best wired counties in Minnesota but it’s only helpful when all of our citizens participate. Through the Computer Commuter we are able to serve the demographic that has proven to be most difficult to reach – older folks and low income residents.
- Visitors come for the computer and internet access – “If we want to use the internet at all, the only cost effective way to do it is to come up here on Tuesday on Computer Commuter and use the computer for four hours.”
- Visitors come for a safe learning environment – “Sometimes you feel like you want to ask something but are afraid everyone will laugh so you don’t ask.” “As adults we think that we don’t want to show our ignorance.” “When you come it’s not intimidating. And if you do make a mistake she [Mary] can help…or get you out of it.”
- Visitors come to keep in touch with family – “If I didn’t do the Facebook, my nieces and nephews, I’d never hear from them. They’re not going to talk…even though I can send them something and say, ‘it’s paid, just call me’ they don’t do it. Or they don’t write letters, but they email and they’re on Facebook.” “My son travels all over the world and if I want to know what he is doing I have to look [online].”
Originally the Computer Commuter’s main goal was to provide free access to computers, internet and help for displaced and under-employed workers, but we quickly became the hot spot for seniors to congregate, socialize and gain confidence using technology. It’s ironic because it’s a demographic many other communities are trying to reach. We are reaching them. We are improving their quality of life by meeting them where they are, teaching them how to use the tools ( from iPads for Christmas to castoffs from relatives), helping them gain comfort and confidence using technology.
We wanted to share the fun news from the Computer Commuter and to thank the Dawson Community Foundation…
LqP Computer Commuter’s Mary Quick accepted a generous donation from Dave Pederson of the Dawson Community Foundation to help maintain the services of the LqP Computer Commuter in their 5th year. Quick said they continue to travel to six communities each week, have partnered with 4 local businesses in the “Learn and Earn” program where residents earn retail discounts by learning computer skills, and partnered with the Dawson and Madison Public Libraries in extending their outreach program to nearby communities. Quick appreciates the generous award from the Dawson Community Foundation and the support from the county residents.
We’re adding a new service to the Computer Commuter!
The Computer Commuter has entered a new partnership with both the Dawson Public Library and the Madison Public Library. Residents in the out lying communities can come onto the bus and using our equipment, request library materials.
We pick up the materials at the library and bring them to the respective community and hand out to the resident. When they’re done, they return the materials to us, and we return them to the library.
And just a reminder…
LqP Computer Commuter Schedule
- 8am – 12pm Bellingham
- 1pm – 5pm Nassau
- 8am – 12pm Madison
- 1pm – 5pm Marietta
- 8am – 12pm Dawson
- 1pm – 5pm Boyd
Please note: LqP Computer Commuter Winter Weather Policy: If the schools in Lac qui Parle County are closed or delayed the Computer Commuter will not be in operation that day.
Blandin Foundation awards grant to boost digital literacy in Lac qui Parle by encouraging citizens to use the Computer Commuter
GRAND RAPIDS, Minn (May 7, 2014) – Blandin Foundation announced today that it has awarded six grants totaling $147,750 that assist rural Minnesota communities in advancing high-speed Internet access and use in their communities.
The Lac qui Parle Economic Development Authority will support residents in gaining digital literacy skills available through the local Computer Commuter, with support of a $25,000 Blandin Foundation grant.
“We’re excited to receive this support from an organization as strong as the Blandin Foundation,” said Mary Quick, coordinator for the Lac qui Parle Computer Commuter. “Our mobile computer lab has become a valuable asset in increasing the digital literacy skills of our residents. We look forward to continuing that effort.”
The Lac qui Parle Computer Commuter is a mobile computer lab that tours the county to provide training and assistance to residents and local businesses. Since it hit the streets in 2010, more than 3,431 residents have used the Computer Commuter’s services.
“Rural leaders know that connected communities are vibrant communities,” said Dr. Kathleen Annette, CEO of Blandin Foundation. “We are delighted to see how the Lac qui Parle Economic Development Authority is using the Computer Commuter to offer more residents access to the opportunities that high-speed Internet offers.”
Since making rural broadband use and access a focus in 2003, Blandin Foundation has partnered with leaders in more than 60 communities and 80 organizations across the state to support sustainable broadband adoption to enhance quality of life and plac
Where was Pan Lehmann this week? She was in Kansas City talking about the Computer Commuter – after a personal invitation from the folks at Google Fiber. It turns out that the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Fund debuted with an event that featured six digital inclusion projects across the US and the Computer Commuter was one of them.
Here’s a little bit more about the event from the Kansas City Star…
Enter the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Fund, a new idea to help bridge that digital divide, a chasm that will widen as more of the metro area embraces Google Fiber and other super-fast Internet connections.
Launched Wednesday, the fund — started with $1 million in corporate and foundation gifts —will allow area nonprofit organizations to apply for grants to teach residents how to use digital devices or provide Internet access through computer labs or classes.
And their take on the Computer Commuter…
Planners shared sample grant projects from around the country.
In the rural Minnesota county of Lac qui Parle, a mobile computer lab travels to six communities each week to provide hands-on training and Internet access to residents. Pam Lehmann, executive director of the county’s economic development authority, said it cost about $30,000 to buy and retrofit a used hotel shuttle bus and about $60,000 a year to operate the service.
Check out Pam’s presentation: