Local man bridges the Digital Divide

Reproduced with permission*


    Working from their modest home on the Southeast side, Bill and LaVerne Blickley are solving two of the most vexing problems of the Information Age.

    First, there’s the knowledge gap between the affluent families who can afford home computers and .. families who cannot.

    Then, there’s the problem of what to do with obsolete computers -out-of-date machines filled with stuff you don’t want to put into the local landfill.

    Bill, best known in Grand Rapids as a maverick city commissioner who served two terms in the late 1980's has been upgrading (good) computers in his basement and giving them away through his non-profit organization, Wherever God Wills 
( www.whereverGodwills.org ).

    While it sounds simple, the Blickley’s put in a ton of time and energy to make it actually happen.

Quite a stash

   To get his hands on (good) computers, Bill haunts Internet auction sites and liquidation sales.

    At a recent city auction sale, he bought 200 computers, 150 monitors and 100-plus keyboards.

    Bill recently drove to Lincoln Neb., to pick up a load of used hard drives from a computer salvager.

    He found an Ann Arbor company that gave him 20 monitors and a dozen computers.

    He’s got four file cabinet drawers filled with unopened versions of Windows ...*, Microsoft Works...*, Microsoft Office...* and Microsoft Money...* He bought them very cheap from a Texan he found on ebay.com.

Jim Harger


[  Note... Not published with this article: 
If you have a good computer and software that you would like to contribute... your contribution would be appreciated. ]
Bill Blickley

    Once he started looking, Bill said he was amazed at how much (usable) hardware was available. "I just didn’t have a clue as to how deep the ocean was," he says.

Once he gets the computers, Blickley takes them to his basement workshop, (photos of workshop)  where he rebuilds them to a standard configuration, making them easier to use.

        In addition to installing a Windows...* operating system, Blickley also includes (Office...* or Works...* and a  money management program...*), a Bible tutorial and a six-month free (dial-up) Internet account.

    Blickley includes a monitor, mouse, mouse pad, and a dot-matrix printer - the ribbons are cheaper to replace...

     He also installs a NetNanny Internet filter to help keep the kids from straying into the wrong areas of the internet.

    Thanks to his scrounging and donated parts and software, Bill keeps his out-of-pocket costs low.








    A self-taught technician who learned to build computers by trial and error, Bill doesn’t count his labor costs. He estimates he’s invested about 10 hours of time for every computer that goes out the front door.


    Bill gives the computers to any students who can demonstrate a financial need (presently don't have a computer in their home) and prove they are making a good effort at school. He also requires them to put in 10 hours of community service.

    When families come to pick up their computer, they get a one-hour dining room tutorial aimed at demystifying the machine. Most kids are familiar enough with computers from school they can show their parents how they work, he said.

A technological blessing

    For Elaine Harris, a disabled single mom living on the city’s Southeast side, Blickley’s deal was too good to pass.

    Harris wanted the computer for herself and her two children. Kevin, 13, and Storee, 9. She heard about Blickley’s deal from her niece.

    Harris did five hours of volunteer work at her daughter’s school while her mother volunteered on her behalf at a homeless shelter.

    "It was a blessing. It really was," says Harris of her new window into cyberspace. I’m just amazed at all the things you come across".

       "It’s just a lot of fun, I like doing it," he says with a big grin.

-Jim Harger’s e-mail address is jharger@gr-press.com

* The version of this software is nearly the same and compatible with the programs used by students in local schools. 


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