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Students in Training unable to provide free computers due to lack of funds

Noelle Edwards
nedwards@salisburypost.com
A Salisbury group that supplies computers to low-income people has come to a standstill.
Students in Training, a nonprofit organization that trains and mentors middle school through high school students, has, quite simply, run out of money. The group normally supplies refurbished computers to people of low income for free, usually about 200 at a time, but since May it hasn’t given away a single computer.
Charles Patton, founder and leader of the group, said the computers are plentiful, donated from the VA hospital and Food Lion mostly, but each computer costs Students in Training $125 to inventory, repair and buy software. That’s where the group is falling flat.
Patton’s organization relies on grants and donations. He said the people he normally goes to when he needs money just don’t have it to give, and many grant funds are depleted as well. The group has applied for a number of large grants recently, and Patton is confident the group will get some money from them. He just doesn’t know when.
“We’re just trying to survive,” he said.
This is the first time things have been so bad since 1995, Patton said.
More than 200 people are waiting for computers. Patton said low-income people who can’t afford computers on their own need the machines for school work, job applications and keeping in touch with family members.
For instance, he mentioned one person he’s worked with who is disabled and has no phone and can only communicate his needs through the computer Students in Training gave him.
Patton said the other option besides making them wait is to charge them, and most of the people he works with can’t afford the $125, low as that price is for a computer.
The machines are mostly P4 machines, one generation back. Any computers Students in Training can’t use are recycled.
As part of this program, Patton said, six to eight college students are paid as apprentices to train middle and high school students to help people with computers.
Students are trained in assessment and repair, sales and marketing, inventory, customer service, bookkeeping and middle management skills.
The kicker, Patton said, is he needs only $25,000 to cover the cost of more than 200 computers to clear off his waiting list. Until he gets that, things are pretty much stalled, he said.

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