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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Connecting for Good

Connecting for Good

Most of use the Internet every day – staying in touch with friends, reading about current events, menu planning, and most jobs now utilize the Internet.  Imagine if you were unable to afford having an Internet connection and a computer at home?  While Internet access is available at libraries, schools and other public institutions, today’s organization believes connectivity in the home is essential for families if they are to fully participate in our digital society, and they are making a difference in one community.

Michael Miimatta had been serving as a consultant to several non-profit organizations while his friend Rick Deane had a company that provided technical support to nonprofits.  They both saw the need to close the Digital Divide between the nonprofit world and the corporate world.  They gathered a few other providers of Information Technology services to nonprofit organizations to begin a joint venture in the spring of 2011.  They began by planning a series of training events to teach nonprofit staff members about websites, online marketing, and social media to raise public awareness of their causes as well as utilize the Internet for fundraising. 

Around that same time, Google announced that it had chosen Kansas City as the first city in the United States to build its ultrahigh speed one gigabit fiber network.  Michael and Rick saw this as an opportunity to extend Internet connectivity to underserved kids and families who would be left out of this fiber revolution simply because they cannot afford to pay for fiber service, lack the computer equipment to connect, or the knowledge to become productive Internet users.  A board of directors was formed and Connecting for Good was incorporated in Kansas in November 2011.

In October 2012, Connecting for Good received a jump start when a local mobile applications developer, One Louder Apps, won a national competition where the prize was to give $10,000 to the charity of their choice, and they selected Connecting for Good as the recipient.  In December 2012, Connecting for Good installed their first free Wi-Fi network in a 168 unit low income housing complex in Kansas City, Kansas.  This project brought Internet connectivity to nearly 400 residents as well as digital literacy training to fifty residents and several low cost laptops for residents.

The mission of Connecting for Good is to enable organizations and individuals to use technology to connect with one another in order to have a positive impact on society and the environment.  They are bridging the Digital Divide through free in-home Internet connectivity, Wi-Fi mesh networks, refurbished computers, and digital life skills instruction for low income families.

Rosedale Ridge

Since December 2012, they have brought free broadband Internet to over 600 households in the Kansas City area, along with cheap PCs and digital literacy training to a 168 unit low income housing facility, to a 60 unit building for low income senior citizens and to a 390 unit public housing project.  Their most recent project at Juniper Gardens was accomplished by installing over 70 Wi-Fi transmitters to create a hotspot that covers four city blocks.  Their installation at Rosedale Ridge enabled over 400 devices to connect to the Internet including 21 school issued laptops.  You can read more about this installation on their website.

Connecting for Good believes that Internet connectivity equals opportunity and the Internet is a necessity in order to fully participate as a productive citizen in a digital society.  They also believe that education is the number one thing that lifts people out of poverty and it is nearly impossible to pursue a quality education without access to the Internet.  Connecting for Good also believes that in-home Internet access should be viewed as an essential modern utility like phone service, electricity, and running water.

How can you help?

Connecting for Good has a variety of volunteer opportunities including:

  • Mentoring of low income individuals who are beginning Internet users, teaching digital literacy classes, and working in their computer refurbishing shop.  You can learn more about these opportunities and view their volunteer opportunity calendar on their website or by joining their Meetup group.
  • Donating your used computers for their refurbishing program.
  • Donating to their Crowdfunding campaign to purchase the remaining Wi-Fi antennas they need for their Juniper Gardens project.  You can watch a news story about this project here.
  • Donating to them via PayPal by clicking the Donate button on their homepage.

Learn more about Connecting for Good on their website, connectingforgood.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, and Meetup.  You can also contact them by phone at 913-730-0677.

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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AbleGamers

AbleGamers

I enjoyed playing video games in my youth.  Now there are games everywhere…on our computers, phones, and televisions.  Some offer learning opportunities while others offer opportunities to connect.  Today’s organization offers video games as a catalyst to level the playing field.

In 2004, Mark Barlet his usual Friday evening plans to meet his friend Stephanie Walker in a game called EverQuest for a weekly game time.  When she did not show up in the game, Mark became concerned and called her house.  Albert, her husband, answered the phone with Stephanie crying in the background.  She was experiencing a severe Multiple Sclerosis attack which had left her unable to use her left arm.  She could not feel the mouse in her hand, let alone use it to play.

Mark searched the Internet in search of information to help her play despite her disability and became dismayed to find nothing was available for those who need help gaming with a disability or war trauma.  Mark started AbleGamers as a blog to help fill the void and help others going through a difficult time gaming.  Today, AbleGamers is a large international non-profit that believes there should be no barriers to fun.  They work to improve the lives of those with disabilities through greater access to the world of video games; a world that allows individuals to run, jump and soar despite their physical barriers in life.

The AbleGamers Foundation’s mission is to bring greater accessibility in the digital entertainment space so that people with disabilities can gain a greater quality of life and develop a rich social life that gaming can bring.

You can watch this video to learn more about their mission and impact:

AbleGamers reaches out to the gaming industry to speak to developers and publishers to educate them on game improvements that are most effective and practical.  They do this through direct consultation and their guide to game accessibility.  They also help people on an individual basis with their community website.  Through forums, individuals with disabilities and/or their caretakers can post questions.  The forum community can participate to help come up with a solution.  In addition, AbleGamers holds the largest database for video game reviews addressing the specific purpose of addressing the accessibility of the game.  They also run many grant and outreach programs to help the community members as their funding allows.

Steve Spohn, editor-in-chief at AbleGamers shared one story of their work with me.  “One of my personal favorite stories is from an event called Abilities Expo in Chicago, Illinois. We were there with our Accessibility Arcade™ showing all of the latest and greatest assistive technology the world has to offer. One day, a couple and their son who had a severe neuromuscular disorder came up to our booth and asked what would be possible to help him game.  We noticed that although he was not able to use his upper torso, his feet were still kicking. Mark pulled out a foot pedal, plugged it into our Adroit-a device which we helped create that allows switches to be plugged into an Xbox instead of the standard controller-and held the pedal up to the six-year-old child.  He was ecstatic. He giggled and smiled watching a race car run around the track from his foot operating the controls. They had a great time and we feel very satisfied to have helped another gamer with disabilities.  A few hours later, the father came up to me and placed his hand on my shoulder from behind. I turned around to see a very proud, strong and tall man with tears in his eyes thanking me for giving his son the opportunity to enjoy video game like any other young boy.  It is an image that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

AbleGamers is currently working on a project called AbleGamers to go which will be the first of its kind double decker bus filled with accessibility equipment, assistive technology, and videogame apparel.  They have plans to bring this bus around the country to children’s hospitals and veteran’s centers to help bring gaming to them.

How can you help?

AbleGamers is always looking for new volunteers.

  • Volunteers are needed to write content for the website, help with real-life conferences, assist with fundraisers, and spread the word about the importance of gaming with a disability.  To volunteer, submit the form on their website.
  • You can make a monetary donation through their website.
  • If you develop video games, you can review their guide to game accessibility and incorporate accessibility into your games.
  • You can also spread the word about this organization by sharing this post on Facebook and Twitter.

You can learn more about AbleGamers on their website, AbleGamers.com.  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.  You can also visit their guide for game accessibility at includification.com.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Kitchen on the Street

Kitchen on the Street

Food trucks have become quite a trend.  There are food truck races on television, websites dedicated to where food trucks are parked for the day and even food truck festivals.  I was excited when a local food truck made a trip to the parking lot of the suburban office building I work at for a special food drive event.  Today’s organization is also using a food truck to make a difference.

In 2005 and 2006 Vince, Lisa and Taylor Scarpinato were volunteering around their community, but always left feeling a deeper calling.  In September of 2006, a family friend and local elementary school principal, Dennis Cagle, came over for dinner and shared stories of hungry children.  One second grade girl went through the school cafeteria and picked up discarded half-eaten foods from other children.  The principal went on to share that many children receive breakfast and lunch from the schools, but go hungry on the weekends.  That night, the family decided to start a non-profit and Kitchen on the Street was born.

The mission of Kitchen on the Street is “Turning Hunger into Hope”.  They fulfill this mission through several programs.  The first program they started was Bags of Hope; backpacks of individually portioned, shelf stable meal and snack foods for children to eat on the weekends.  In their first year, they served 30 children through the Bags of Hope program and have since expanded to serve many more.  The organization also partners with local growers, community gardens, and food banks to distribute fresh produce to families in need through their Fresh Food Distribution program.  They collaborate with local schools, churches, and community centers on events where low income families receive free fresh produce.

The newest program is the Kitchen on the Street Food Truck.  This truck is a traveling kitchen that feeds people, raises awareness, acts as a mobile classroom and helps raise funds for the Bags of Hope program.  The truck was purchased from a $100,000 grant provided by the Arizona Diamondbacks.  The truck is used to teach families about food and nutrition and to teach job skills to adults in need.  The truck also travels to a variety of locations and special events as a catering business that feeds money back into the other Kitchen on the Street Programs.

Kitchen on the Street's Food Truck

The video below talks more about the impacts of childhood hunger and how Kitchen on the Street is making a difference:

How can you help?

  • Become a fan on Facebook or subscribe to their e-news to receive notifications of volunteer opportunities with Kitchen on the Street such as backpack packing events, fresh food handouts, and a variety of other tasks.
  • You can volunteer or participate in the annual Hike for Hunger to raise awareness of childhood hunger.
  • You can also make a monetary donation through the Kitchen on the Street website by clicking the donate button.

Learn more about Kitchen on the Street on their website, KitchenOnTheStreet.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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