Bill Blickley is a former third ward city commissioner and a local
small business owner.
His wife LaVerne, a teacher, serves as an elected board member on the
Grand Rapids Public Library.
The couple shares in community service through their own ministry,
Wherever God Wills, a non-profit organization.
One of their latest ventures is helping close the digital divide. They
place computers in the homes of low income city neighborhoods, free of
charge to students in grades seven and up, in families that cannot afford
While no dollar amount is attached, there is a requirement to be met.
To qualify, students and their families complete 10 hours of community
service at a nonprofit organization of their choice and provide proof.
This requirement adds dignity to accepting the free equipment. In a sense,
the person pays, not with dollars but with time.
"We do not look at what we are doing as charity," LaVerne
said. "The person puts in 10 hours of community service.
Bill 10 hours to assemble a computer system. It*s
equal. That makes us all partners."
Bill upgrades the memory and
power to a level that will enable students to complete school assignments.
Bill rebuilds computers for students
student families and helps Bill with computers.
Students may choose between having Works...* or Office
Professional ...* or Office- Small Business ...* installed on their
computers, as well as Money...*. All programs provide tools for word
processing (writing letters and school papers), spreadsheet, (doing
accounting type work), and database, (organizing lists of people and
Works is the program often provided on school computers and
is designed to teach students how to use the computer and its programs. MS
Office Professional and MS Small Business adds PowerPoint, a program for
group visual presentations, and Publisher, a program for news letters and
flyers. Money helps balance the check book, keep track of
household bills, and do other financial management tasks. Bill also...
adds a link to a study Bible program.
Included with the computer is a dot matrix printer, enough paper to get
started and six months of free, dial-up Internet connection. After six
months, the Internet connection can be continued for this student for only
$5 (now $8.88) per month. ‘We*re
always looking for dot matrix printers. These can be used for most school
papers and basic work," Blickley said. "Cartridges for inkjet
and laser printers cost too much money. Most of the people we work with
would find them too expensive. We can re-ink the ribbons for the dot
Picking up the equipment is a family affair. Bill gives students and
parents an hour of instruction in the basics. Parents get a password to
monitor kids on line and a brochure about child safety on the information
highway published by the National Center for Missing and Exploited
Who benefits from their work? Bill says the list is long and growing.
Families who have to tutor at home because their child has
been expelled from school are referred if they can*t
afford a computer. The Grand Rapids Public School District included an
article in its employee newsletter. Teachers have begun to tell their
students and even send a notice home to parents.
"For a "Mom and Pop" operation we are becoming an
important link in education for the low income community."
(Some counselors at) the Family Independence Agency refer families.
(Some counselors at) the local federal employment and training
organization have begun to refer clients that cannot afford but need a
computer. Nearly 85% of the new owners are African American, 10% are
Hispanic and the others are (Eastern European) immigrants.
Applying is easy. Students take an application form from the front door
of the couple*s
home, or visit their web site at (any school or public library)
www.whereverGodwills.org or call (616) 452-2683.
Where do the Blickleys find the materials to build the systems? Their
answer: "Beg. Borrow, shake the bushes. Some things we buy."
Some items are sent by UPS and Fed Ex from friends as far west as
California, Nebraska and as far east as New York. In addition, Bill and
LaVerne are very determined in their search. They look at yard sales. They
left after auctions at area colleges or after upgrades at businesses.
Wherever God Wills buys and accepts donated computers and software.
Materials and financial contributions to the 501 (c) 3 organization are
tax deductible. The couple has a wish list: software such as Windows* ...,
Office* ..., and Works*... meets most
"We need good printers to include with the computers that we
give," Blickley said. "(Dot matrix) Printers that we can afford
to include, (and students can afford to operate) are getting hard to get.
Some people still have (these) printers that they are not using since they
upgraded their system. We need their printer to be donated to our program.
Anyone interested in donating can call Bill and La Verne at (616)
* The version of this software is nearly the same and
compatible with the programs used by students in local schools.
The Grand Rapids Times
has been published weekly since 1957
P.O Box 7258 Grand Rapids, Michigan 49510
Office Address: 2016 Eastern SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49507
Telephone: (616) 245-8737 FAX: (616) 245-1026
Managing Editor and Publisher: Patricia Pulliam
Times, May 16, 2003 *