FORT BRAGG, N.C. - More than 250 Fort Bragg Families received free desktop computers. The giveaway was part of a back-to-school event, sponsored by the Kramden Institute and computer manufacturing giant Lenovo Saturday at Albritton Junior High School.

This year's event marked the second time the agencies combined to sponsor the event here. The first award day took place in 2007, in which 255 computers were given away.

According to Lynn Oliveria of Fort Bragg's Army Community Service, the computers were given to the Families as a means of helping the students throughout the upcoming school year. Oliveria said the computers should also provide an avenue of communication between the Family here and their deployed Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"In 2007, we were contacted from Lenovo/Kramden," Oliveria explained. "They do a fantastic thing where they work together in refurbishing computers and they wanted to reach out to the military and they made a phone call. We said, absolutely, we'd be happy to host it."

Oliveria said her office and the Child and Youth Services Office worked together to find a location to host the event and Lenovo/Kramden gave out 255 computers to military Families.

Oliveria pointed out that there were requirements that had to be met before the computers were issued. The Families had to have a child in either middle or high school with good grades and they had to be identified as not having a computer in their home. Once the requirements were met, the Families were notified that they would receive the computers.

"We wanted to make sure they could do their school work, but also communicate with their loved ones down range," Oliveria said.

According to Gerhardt Guevarra of CYS, the Families were selected based on an application process.

"Of course we didn't want people just showing (up) and seeing if they can get a computer, which is why Child and Youth Services was contacted, we have a connection at the schools," he explained. "So we sent out applications to our Family readiness group contacts, to the Public Affairs Office and to the schools."

Guevarra said once the applications were turned in, they chose the Families that had the greatest need for a computer.

"We sought those who had the greatest need first - those who had no computer," Guevarra said. "Then we started looking at those who had just one computer. I think we captured everyone who had no computer," he said.

"I have no words that can describe how I feel just watching their faces as they receive these computers," said Mark Dibner, Kramden Institute chief executive officer, who also attended the event. "I think of myself and if my Internet service provider goes down for 20 minutes, I go crazy. I can't imagine a Family living without the Internet and without that access."

Dibner said he especially feels pleased knowing that computers will allow Families to communicate with their deployed loved ones.

He said he spoke to Oliveria about hosting the event every other year, so Fort Bragg Families will continue to benefit in the future.

The computers that were given away were refurbished at, what Dibner called, a Geek-a-Thon, which is an event co-sponsored by his organization and Lenovo. The event features more than 200 volunteers who devote a weekend to refurbishing the computers for the military giveaway.

"This is very exciting," explained Shakisha Pearsall, who along with her two daughters, W'Keyaih and Aaliyah, attended the event and took home a computer. She said having a computer allows her daughters to converse with her husband who is currently deployed.

"They get a phone call from him about every two months now, but it will be a lot easier to talk to him now," she said. "They should enjoy sending him e-mail messages. It will definitely help out."
Pearsall's daughters agreed, but said they were also excited about being able to do other things with the "new" computer.

"I'm looking forward to the Internet," W'Keyaih said.

"YouTube," added Aaliyah.

Page last updated Mon August 24th, 2009 at 18:07