They have driven as far as Lincoln, Neb., to pick up a load of used
hard drives from a computer salvager.
By Morgan Jarema
TM Grand Rapids Press
Vivian and William Jackson want to give their five Sons every
opportunity to excel in school.
But the Southwest Grand Rapids family has been through hard times
recently that have made it difficult to provide some opportunities that
many consider basic.
The Jacksons don*t
own a computer, the boys —
ranging in age from 12 to 17—
do homework that requires a computer at school or the library.
Given that school and library
hours are limited, that sometimes makes cornpleting assignments a
challenge. And making copies of Internet pages costs money, which right
now is scarce for the Jacksons.
But they might get some help.
They recently applied to a local program that provides free computers to
Call it the ministry of
megabytes. To bridge the gap between families who can afford home
those who cannot, Bill Blickley
and his wife, LaVerne, have refurbished and donated used computers to
students in inner-city Grand Rapids neighborhoods for four years.
Working from their Eastown
home, the couple*s
Wherever God Wills ministry gives computers to students — seventh grade
to adult — who don*t
have a computer in their home and can demonstrate a financial need and
prove they are making a good effort in school.
Applicants must do 10 hours of
community service at the charity or nonprofit organization of their choice
to get the computers. The machines come with six months of free Internet
service, which can be extended for $5 (Now $8.88) a month after that.
about loving your neighbor, looking to where other people have needs, and
you have the resources to meet those needs," Bill Blickley said.
For more information about the Blickleys*
computer giveaway, call 452-2683 or visit www.wherevergodwllls.org
go to any Internet
search engine and type:
"free computers Grand Rapids."
Donations are tax deductible.
The computer ministry started
when Blickley, a former Grand Rapids city commissioner and self-taught
technician, heard about kids in his neighborhood who did not have
computers at home.
"If people don*t
have a computer at home by now, they*re
pretty low income," he said. "One of the things that keeps
different groups at each other*s
throats is when one group has resources and the other does not. There*s
a resentment that comes from that, and our society must treat people
Blickley scours Internet auction sites and liquidation sales for
computers. He and his wife have driven as far as Lincoln, Neb., to pick up
a load of used hard drives from a computer salvager.
Once he gets the computers, Blickley takes them to his basement
workshop where, with help from Grand Rapids Christian High School intern
Thahn Nguyen, 17, he rebuilds them to a standard configuration.
Floor-to-ceiling shelves teem with hard drives and other hardware. File
cabinet drawers are filled with unopened versions of Windows, Microsoft
Works, Microsoft Office and Microsoft Money, which Blickley said he bought
at bargain prices on eBay.
In addition to installing a Windows operating system, Blickley includes
Office or Works, a money management
program and a Bible tutorial. The donated PCs —
which come with an
Internet filter to help keep youngsters from straying onto questionable
Web sites — include a monitor, mouse, mouse pad and a dot-matrix
When families come to pick
up their computers, they get a one-flour tutorial in the Blickleys*
Press Photo/Liz Orozco
Bill Blickley, of Eastown, works on a computer in his basement
Blickley said he happily accepts
older software, which he can install on the -computers — as long as
donors include the license and manual.
"People need to not throw
away that older software and give it to us," he says.
He estimated that he invests
about 10 hours into every computer that goes out the front door. Because
donations now account for the majority of his stock, he expects the
ministry to break even this year for the first time, he said.
"I was buying everything in
the beginning," Blickley said.
"And Dumpster diving,"
added his wife, a Grand Rapids Christian School
and a Grand Rapids Library Board member.
Celia Scott, case manager
for the self-sufficiency project of the West Side Complex, said her
organization has referred as many as 40 families to. Wherever God Wills
during the past 12 -months.
She said the ministry has made
such an impact on local families that she nominated the Blickleys for a
state community action award, which they will receive this year.
"(Bill) just does
marvelous work and really asks for nothing for himself in return,"
Scott said. "He and his wife have just made a commitment. We can*t
even begin to see the total impact that he*s
17, 2004 ---
GRAND RAPIDS PRESS ---