TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Since the start of the pandemic many students have struggled to get devices to help with remote learning and assignments. This week the Smith County Information Technology Department donated more than 150 computer and technology items to the Mustard Seed Ministries.
The ministry began 19 years ago as an educational ministry for seniors but soon grew into more. Karen Jones is the pastor and program director at Mustard Seed and said, “In a normal year we usually have a need for about 600 computers. Last year because of COVID and so many kids were at home doing schooling, we did over a thousand computers. That’s a little bit of a press for us, it was a challenge.”
There were a lot of 12 hour days for that first few months of COVID-19 when so many people needed computers. No challenge is too big for the seven volunteer techs that work on all sorts of issues. Joe Cuthbertson is the technical director and has been working with the tech team since about 2002.
“It’s really an uplifting feeling when you can build a computer and give it to a little kid and his eyes get about that big around and he says, ‘It’s all mine,’” he said.
This week Smith County donated what is considered their salvage, Jones said. This is equipment that’s usually only in the field for a few years. Once they get it they refurbish the items and get them ready for students from 4th grade up through college.
“Refurbished means everything,” Jones said. “We kill the hard drives, put in any new memory that it needs to have. Of course clean it and spruce it up, and then completely reload our software on the computer because we use our own licensed Microsoft software.”
Jones said during the pandemic there were many 12 hour days with students lined up outside waiting to get a computer. Even with many back in the classroom, Jones said there is still great need.
“Because we are now more and more dependent on technology for picking up assignments, turning things in, even textbook reading anymore comes a lot of the times on the internet,” she said.
The students aren’t the only ones who get something out of this. Cuthbertson said it’s more fun than work for them.
“It keeps our minds working because when we run into a problem today it may not be the same one tomorrow. So it’s always keeping the gray matter stirred up,” he said.
Jones said they will continue fixing and getting laptops to students over the summer.
If you or someone you know is in need of a computer, you can call the ministry at (903)-526-5358.