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Foundation gives new life to broken computers


COMPUTER technology is advancing almost daily, and computer owners are under pressure to buy new machines.

In many cases, there is nothing wrong with the old computer. It's just no longer cutting edge.

That's often enough reason to consign it to the trash bin.

Columbia residents Don Bard and Paul Demmitt have found a way to put these relics to good use.

Bard became interested in recycling used computers after reading an article about charitable organizations that needed computers but couldn't afford them.

As a member of the Central Micro Computer User Group, Bard had been tinkering with computers for years.

The Hickory Ridge resident knew that if he could get three or four used or broken computers, he could cannibalize them to make one or two working models.

In 1992, Bard and Demmitt, who lives in Owen Brown, founded the Lazarus Foundation -- a nonprofit organization that refurbishes used computers and provides them to community service groups and educational institutions.

Bard estimates that the foundation has recycled more than 1,800 computers.

"I thought this would be a fun little Saturday project," Bard says. "I had no idea it would be as successful as it has been."

In the beginning, the group used space donated by Columbia Management to set up a workshop.

Don Manekin of the Manekin Corp. donates warehouse space to store donated computers. The Microsoft Corp. provides free software.

Last fall, the Lazarus Foundation began a partnership with Atholton High School. The school provides space to Lazarus for the work that it does. In return, the foundation teaches students to repair computers.

Students who volunteer at the workshop after school can earn a computer of their own.

Atholton High School Principal Connie Lewis, Assistant Principal Graydon Webster and teacher Reg Hahne are working with the foundation to set up a program in which students learn to repair and upgrade computers for class credit.

At the end of the course, the students will be eligible to test for A+ certification -- a qualification that would allow them to get jobs repairing, upgrading and maintaining computers.

Bard says, "There are plenty of businesses clamoring for employees with these skills."

He hopes the program at Atholton will become a model for other high schools in the county and across the country.

The foundation is also collaborating with Elderhostel, an organization that offers enrichment classes for senior citizens.

The Lazarus Foundation and Elderhostel offer workshops in computer skills and computer recycling for seniors citizens. The next five-day course for seniors will be offered in March. Bard says there is a waiting list of senior citizens who want to participate.

The foundation's volunteers keep things running smoothly.

"We're all basically techies," Bard says. "Everybody helps with the repairs."

Jim Chaisson of Pointers Run is the foundation's strategic planner. Tom Hare of Hobbits Glen is treasurer. Stevens Forest resident Rob Gold "does miracles with Macintoshes," according to Bard.

Columbian Judy Hildenbrand is the group's network guru, or specialist. Larry Medoff, a resident of the Donleigh neighborhood in Columbia, handles public relations for the foundation. Ellicott City attorney Rich Turer offers legal advice to the foundation when he's not tinkering with the computers.

The foundation always needs more volunteers, and it hopes to find more space to store equipment.

On Jan. 23, the Lazarus Foundation will conduct a workshop for people interested in learning more about computer technology. The hands-on class will give participants an understanding and appreciation of "what's under the hood of a computer," Bard says.

The one-day program will be held at Atholton High School.

The class is limited to 20 participants. The cost, $45, includes lunch and light refreshments.

Register by sending your payment to the Lazarus Foundation, 10378 Eclipse Way, Columbia 21044, or call 410-740-0735.

Swing lessons

The Wilde Lake Community Association will offer swing dance lessons, with instructor Carlos Jarava, beginning Monday.

Jarava, who is from Colombia, began teaching dance with the Arthur Murray Studios 15 years ago.

A resident of Owen Brown, Jarava believes that swing dancing is enjoying a new popularity because of a Gap commercial featuring swing, and the resurgence of the music on Top-40 charts.

Groups such as the Cherry Popping Daddies, the Brian Setzer Orchestra and the Squirrel Nut Zippers are bringing swing back into the '90s.

Jarava, who prefers the Glenn Miller Orchestra, thinks swing dancing is popular because it allows for the freedom of expression.

"It's not formal or rigid," he says.

He says he enjoys teaching dance "because people come in who don't believe they have the ability to dance. In six weeks, they are moving well with a partner."

People of all ages attend his swing dancing classes. "Everyone from teens to senior citizens," Jarava said.

The six-week classes at Slayton House will meet from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays. The cost is $60. Registration is required.

Information: 410-730-3987.

Watercolor exhibit

Slayton House Gallery in Wilde Lake will be host for an exhibition of watercolors of flowers, landscapes, water scenes and still lifes from tomorrow to Jan. 30.

The artists are members of the Baltimore Watercolor Society -- a nonprofit group founded in 1885.

The society's objective is to encourage and promote interest in the development of professional quality original artworks, principally in transparent watercolor.

The public is invited to an opening reception from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Refreshments will be served, and a classical guitarist will play. Information: 410-730-3987.

Pub Date: 1/06/99

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