10/100/1000: The winner is reachIT.org

The 2012 10/100/1000 Challenge, a joint project of Creative Loafing and Creative Tampa Bay, drew a wide array of interesting ideas for making our region a better place to live. The judges awarded the top prize of $1,000 to reachIT.org. Read about the other finalists here.

“We refurbish unwanted computers and give them to families of low socioeconomic status right here in our community.”

The winning project in this year’s 10/100/1000 Challenge traces its origins to a chance encounter in St. Petersburg’s North Shore Dog Park. More than two years ago, Gina Kravitz, executive director of the Florida Suncoast affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, was walking her English bulldog Gracie when she met Dale Owens and his dog, a beagle mix named Peanut. Over the course of their friendship, Owens, an analytical chemist who’d found a career in computer consulting, shared with Kravitz how much he enjoyed repairing computers for people. With her experience in the grant-funded world, Kravitz knew how to turn a noble dream into a viable non-profit, and last September, reachIT.org was approved for 501(c)(3) status, two months after she and Owens applied.

For an all-volunteer organization that has only been in existence a short while, reachIT is remarkably well-positioned to realize its mission of providing refurbished computers to communities in need. Its website, reachIT.org, is informative and easily navigable, and the team has already received support from such community partners as law firm Holland & Knight, who not only agreed to provide pro bono legal advice, but have also been “a wonderful source of computer donations,” says Kravitz. A crew of volunteers helps with cleaning laptops, and though reachIT has placed only three computers with families so far, they have dozens ready to go.

reachIT’s preparedness was evident in their application for 10/100/1000. The sense of mission was clear: “Statistics show that those without internet access at home can expect to earn substantially less than those with such access and, since low earning capacity makes home internet access unaffordable in the first place, we are faced with a clear and troubling vicious cycle.” Their initiative was well thought-out, addressing issues of eligibility and impact. And their explanation of how they’d use the $1,000 grant was arrestingly specific: “An award of $1,000.00 would allow us to purchase a combination of 166 Windows 7 and Microsoft Office licenses and place fresh installs on 83 refurbished computers. Currently, reachIT.org volunteers bear all program costs.”

Their dedication to the cause, even while pursuing full-time jobs in other fields, is inspiring. “This isn’t only reachIT.org in St Pete,” Owens wrote in an email, referring to other organizations pursuing similar goals in the U.S. “It is more of a movement.”

Donations are still needed. “We have a major shortage of flat screen LCD monitors and corded mice,” says Kravitz. They’ll take laptops, too. And money. That thousand bucks from Creative Tampa Bay will only go so far.

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