David Dehls is the president of the Reno Cigar Lions Club. Through its Computers For Kids program, the branch has donated more than 5,000 computers to area kids. The computers are refurbished and outfitted with a Linux operating system and educational software programs ranging from math and language tutors to computer animation software. Currently, the club is seeking 100 stands for Dell flat screen computer monitors that are needed to finish refurbishing computers for Mariposa Academy students in Reno.
Why don’t we start with you telling me a little bit about where the idea for Computers for Kids originated.
My friend John White and I were—John had been trying to talk me into joining Lions for years. … And we had talked for some time about the digital divide. And the digital divide, most of the time, means those people who have internet and those who don’t. We kind of extrapolated that into a situation of those kids who have computers at home and those who don’t. And it was becoming apparent, not only to us but to a lot of other folks, that young people that don’t have computers at home are at a significant disadvantage, and that disadvantage has grown over the years. … It has to do, of course, with being able to do homework, being able to do research, being able to complete assignments, and just generally understanding how a computer works. … We decided that we’d make it part of our mission. We were going to form a Lions Club, a chartered Lions Club under Lions Clubs International and our project was going to be giving computers to deserving young people. So, 2006—July of 2006—we became a branch club under Reno Host Lions, and we—because we like to have a lot of fun with everything we do—we named our club the Reno Cigar Lions Club. … We would go out and we would get surplus computers from a variety of different sources. It was a lot of individuals that donated—some businesses. We worked quite a bit with Big Brothers, Big Sisters to provide their young people with the computers. And we settled on using Linux as an operating system for a couple of different reasons. Number one, we wanted to give the young people a very stable operating system. We wanted to give them an operating system that was not prone to impacted by the myriad of viruses that are out on the internet. Finally, we wanted to give them an operating system for which they had access to a wide variety of software that they were able to access at no charge. … Over the years, we’ve started working with the Washoe County School District. … We partner up with some schools. We try to focus on a few schools. We’ve had tremendous luck with Glenn Duncan Elementary School. Darryl Feemster, who runs youth and senior services for the City of Reno, has been instrumental in helping us work with Duncan over the years. If the school wants to do it, the counselor will ask the young people—the teachers—do you have any young people that need computers at home. It’s up the parents as to whether they get the computers or not. The school is not active in providing any transportation or anything. It’s up to the parents to get the kids to the session.
So, what we do is once a month we have a session. … We take a couple of hours, an hour and a half to two hours, to familiarize them with the differences between Linux and Windows. Primarily, the differences are just that the programs are called something different. …We put just about every educational program we can find.
So the age range of the kids?
We take kids anywhere from kindergarten to high school. We try to focus on elementary school, and specifically grades one, two, three, four. As a young person, if you are not at grade level in grade three as far as reading, math, et cetera, your chances of graduating successfully from high school go way down. … Our current program is given up at St. John’s Presbyterian Church.