Encouraged by his parents to find a place to volunteer, Super Geek Louis Jacobowitz first joined Kramden in high school. Over the past 8+ years, Louis transformed into Kramden’s Monitor Testing Guru. On any given Wednesday Work Night, he can be found in the monitor testing area, ensuring all monitors are correctly functioning before distribution.
One day when testing, a fellow volunteer pointed out that some broken monitors almost looked like modern art. Louis decided to take some pictures, and the rest was history.
Out of a desire to put something on his resume for college, Louis put together a website featuring “Monitors of Modern Art.” For years, each Monday, the website has been updated with a haul from the previous Wednesday’s broken monitors. Louis explained that it started with just cropping but evolved into toggling all the sliders to make the best-looking image possible from each broken screen. Eventually, he also began writing descriptions for each collection.
“I tried to frame them as if I was the curator of an art gallery, trying to explain why the art was significant.”
Even after graduating college and starting full-time work, Louis regularly joins Kramden to help. His goal? Louis says if he must hit a stopping point, he wants to “push out to an even 400 collections… we’re only on collection 372 right now.”
A random sampling of images can be found on the front page of the website, https://artmonitors.com, beneath the blurb about the most recently-published collection. For a deeper dive, check out a few of Louis’ personal favorites below.
Louis notes that those with asterisks* are not representative of the general style of works – “They stand out in that way,” he shared, “which is part of why I like them.”
- Lightning Birds
- Universal Rebirth*
- Glint on Scales*
- Caged Spirit*
- Elysium of Geometry
- Hidden Mysticism
- Gradient in Stages
Ian Bilek is Geek of the Week! Ian first started volunteering with Kramden last fall and has already volunteered over 100 hours! Thank you, Ian, for your support and dedication to Kramden’s mission!
Favorite Geek Books: Eragon, Tunnels & Ranger’s Apprentice series
Favorite Geek TV Show: Stargate
Favorite Geek Movie: Interstellar
Favorite Website: YouTube
What is the geekiest thing about you? I beat army of sclaper bots. Twice.
What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Kramden? The fact that it combines my passion for tech and learning new things, with being productive and helping others in the community, all while having fun!
Best Kramden Moment? Having a debate with other volunteers on whether blender is a robot, for the better part of Wednesday Work Night.
When you are not volunteering at Kramden, what do you do? Volunteer with International Student Exchange organization, running, video games, studying for certifications.
BAMBERG, SC—Palmetto Care Connections (PCC) has been awarded a $450,000 Health Equity Initiative grant from the South Carolina Office of Rural Health (SCORH) to increase digital inclusion and expand telehealth in rural areas of South Carolina.
Through the program, at least 1,000 rural South Carolina residents will receive digital inclusion training, digital devices and 12 months of cellular internet service.
PCC will partner with organizations and agencies such as county libraries, Offices on Aging and other community partners to select eligible participants from rural and underserved communities experiencing high health disparities and digital inequities. Target counties are expected to include Bamberg, Barnwell, Allendale, Marion, Dillon, Orangeburg, Williamsburg, Hampton, Lee and Marlboro.
“This project builds on PCC’s successful Palmetto Connect Digital Inclusion pilot grant program which trained senior citizens from rural and underserved communities on digital life skills,” said PCC Chief Executive Office Kathy Schwarting. “We are pleased to receive this Health Equity Initiative Grant to expand our Palmetto Connect Digital Inclusion program to more rural residents in the state.”
“PCC has collaborated with the Kramden Institute, an organization that provides technology tools and training to deserving families in North Carolina, and Lenovo, a multinational technology company. Lenovo has donated 1,000 laptop computers to augment the Health Equity Initiative grant,” said Schwarting.
“We are grateful for the support of the Kramden Institute and Lenovo. Lenovo’s generous donation of the laptops will be used throughout the training and given to each participant,” said Schwarting. “The laptops are a large factor in the success of the PCC Palmetto Connect Digital Inclusion program. Many rural residents don’t have a digital device or internet access at home so the laptops will connect them to a whole new world of resources and opportunities.”
“At Lenovo, our mission is to provide smarter technology for all, meaning across all ages, genders, nationalities, abilities, and ethnicities,” said Libby Richards, North America community engagement manager at Lenovo. “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the severity of the digital divide, especially in rural and low-income communities. Lenovo is proud to provide 1,000 new computers to such a worthwhile cause, as Palmetto Care Connections works to provide digital and health equity in rural and underserved areas.”
“We’re delighted about the partnership with PCC that enables Kramden, based in Durham, North Carolina, to serve senior and rural populations in our neighboring state,” said Cyndy Yu-Robinson, Executive Director of Kramden Institute. “Today, everyone needs technology tools and training for communication, health and social services, commerce, and entertainment.”
Participants in this program will learn the basic skills needed to use a computer and internet in daily life, employment, health and education. Hands-on laptop computer training will include how to send and receive emails, safely navigate the internet and how to connect to health care providers via telehealth, along with resume writing skills, job sourcing and the use of Google productivity tools.
SCORH’s Health Equity Initiative is a partnership with the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control, and is part of a national effort to address COVID-19 related health disparities and advance health equity in rural and underserved communities. This project is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with funding from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.
About Palmetto Care Connections
Established in 2010, Palmetto Care Connections (PCC) is a non-profit organization that brings technology, broadband, and telehealth solutions to health care providers in rural and underserved areas in South Carolina. PCC’s Palmetto Connect Digital Inclusion SolutionsTMhelp close the digital divide for residents in rural and underserved communities by increasing internet access and affordability and connecting individuals to quality-of-life resources which can combat social isolation, enhance workforce development and improve health.
Lenovo (HKSE: 992) (ADR: LNVGY) is a US$60 billion revenue Fortune Global 500 company serving customers in 180 markets around the world. Focused on a bold vision to deliver smarter technology for all, we are developing world-changing technologies that power (through devices and infrastructure) and empower (through solutions, services and software) millions of customers every day and together create a more inclusive, trustworthy and sustainable digital society for everyone, everywhere. To find out more visit https://www.lenovo.com and read about the latest news via our StoryHub.
About Kramden Institute
Kramden Institute is a non-profit organization that provides technology tools and training to bridge the digital divide. Since 2003, Kramden Institute has awarded more than 43,000 computers to deserving families in North Carolina and beyond, and trained more than 7,700 individuals in basic computing skills and STEM interest areas.
RALIEGH, N.C. (Feb. 10, 2022) – Spectrum today announced Kramden Institute has received a $30,000 Spectrum Digital Education grant for the Computer Basics for Seniors curriculum as part of its five-year, $7 million commitment to digital education in Spectrum communities across the country.
Funding will support Kramden’s collaboration with a variety of community partners in the Triangle, Fayetteville, and Sanford areas, providing four sessions of Computer Basics classes and educating up to 150 senior citizens. Along with comprehensive, basic computer training, each participant will be awarded a refurbished laptop computer with one year of complimentary tech support.
“We applaud Kramden Institute for their broadband education initiatives and for helping us support efforts that promote digital literacy,” said Rahman Khan, Vice President of Community Impact for Charter Communications, Inc., which operates the Spectrum brand of broadband connectivity products. “Through this partnership with Kramden Institute, the Spectrum Digital Education program is able to bring essential resources to those in need, and we look forward to working with them on this transformative project.”
“We appreciate Spectrum and Kramden for their work to expand access to digital literacy skills to citizens across the state,” said Nate Denny, Deputy Secretary of the N.C. Department of Information Technology’s Division of Broadband and Digital Equity. “Strong partnerships and commitments like this help empower more North Carolinians to participate in necessities like online job boards, educational opportunities and telehealth.”
“Sharing proven digital literacy programs with partners in counties throughout North Carolina is a wonderful way that Kramden can extend the reach and benefits of our get tech, learn tech model. We appreciate Spectrum’s vision and support in this endeavor to bridge the digital divide,” said Cyndy Yu-Robinson, Executive Director, Kramden Institute.
Kramden Institute is one of 49 nonprofit organizations that Spectrum is supporting through 2021 Spectrum Digital Education grants. Since launching Spectrum Digital Education in 2017, Spectrum has donated $7 million in cash and in-kind contributions for digital literacy programs reaching nearly 70,000 people in 20 states and Washington, D.C. More information about Spectrum Digital Education is available here.
Charter sponsors several philanthropic programs in addition to Spectrum Digital Education, including Spectrum Scholars, a scholarship for under-represented college juniors in financial need; Spectrum Employee Community Grants, which supports Charter employees’ local volunteer activities; and the Spectrum Community Investment Loan Fund, which supports small and minority-owned businesses whose goods and services help meet core needs in financially underserved communities within the company’s footprint. More information about Charter’s philanthropic initiatives is available here.
Spectrum is a suite of advanced communications services offered by Charter Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ:CHTR), a leading broadband connectivity company and cable operator serving more than 32 million customers in 41 states. Over an advanced communications network, the company offers a full range of state-of-the-art residential and business services including Spectrum Internet®, TV, Mobile and Voice.
For small and medium-sized companies, Spectrum Business® delivers the same suite of broadband products and services coupled with special features and applications to enhance productivity, while for larger businesses and government entities, Spectrum Enterprise provides highly customized, fiber-based solutions. Spectrum Reach® delivers tailored advertising and production for the modern media landscape. The company also distributes award-winning news coverage, sports and high-quality original programming to its customers through Spectrum Networks and Spectrum Originals. More information about Charter can be found at corporate.charter.com.
DURHAM, NC, Feb. 1, 2022 – Kramden Institute has been selected as part of a 10-city project led by AT&T and Digitunity to provide more than 2,000 refurbished computers and technology support over the next two years to students and families across the Triangle area of North Carolina.
This project aims to help bridge the digital divide in the Triangle area by providing underserved residents with digital resources and skills training needed for online learning success. Many students across the U.S.are affected by the digital divide and struggle to participate in online learning opportunities because of unreliable internet access, lack of computers, or poor digital literacy skills. This project will help students engage in today’s digital learning environment.
Kramden Institute was selected by Digitunity to provide device refurbishment services, digital literacy training, and technical support. In the last 90 days, close to 150 families in the greater Triangle area benefited from receiving a donated computer from Kramden Institute through this project.
”Kramden Institute is thrilled to have this opportunity to partner with AT&T and Digitunity to promote digital equity in our community,” said Cari DelMariani, director of programs, Kramden Institute.“Through our collaboration, we will provide much-needed computers and hands-on digital training to help make a difference in the lives of families most in need.”
This project is part of AT&T’s $2 billion commitment to bridge the digital divide from 2021 to 2024 through efforts that promote broadband affordability, accessibility and safe adoption. Digitunity will create alliances among device refurbishing organizations, local nonprofits, and businesses to acquire previously used computers that will be refurbished into like-new devices and distributed to underserved students affected by the digital divide.
“Our commitment to narrowing the digital divide includes ensuring that today’s students have both the connectivity and the devices critical to success,” said Trey Rabon, president, AT&T North Carolina. “Through our work with Digitunity and Kramden Institute, we can help thousands of underserved students and their families in Durham get access to free computers and training resources that are vital for online learning success.”
“Device ownership is foundational to digital equity, and technology reuse is a direct and logical answer to the pervasive challenge of the technology gap.” stated Karisa Tashjian, director of programs, Digitunity. “Nonprofit technology refurbishers are critical players in their communities for providing people-centered, integrated service delivery systems that equip students and their families with the digital tools and support they need, both today and in the future.”
For more information on how local nonprofits, businesses, and community leaders can get involved, please contact Karisa Tashjian, Director of Programs, https://links.digitunity.org/10-city-contact-us.
Marcus Harris first learned about Kramden a few years ago after seeing a local newscast highlighting a donation of more than 40 computers the organization made to an area elementary school. “I was incredibly impressed by that,” he shared, “and I began researching the company more and learned just how committed it is to helping bridge the digital divide.”
Ever since, Marcus has been a huge advocate for Kramden’s mission, supporting our ongoing efforts to provide free desktops and laptops to kids who lack them at home.
Recently, Marcus updated us on DaQuanta, a mother of one of the families served through Neighborfood Express, a program that provides free groceries and essential supplies to families living in food-insecure Southeast Raleigh neighborhoods. During virtual learning this past year, Daquanta supervised 16 kids in her apartment complex daily. Unfortunately, the Chromebooks the kids were issued by the school system had been malfunctioning regularly, causing them to fall behind in their academic efforts. After receiving desktop computers from Kramden, Marcus proudly reported that not only have their grades improved, many of them have made the Honor Roll for the first time ever!
The Marcus Harris Foundation was launched in 2018. The foundation works to uplift kids and families from underserved backgrounds, focusing on areas such as education, food insecurity, advocacy for survivors of domestic violence, and, most recently, affordable housing. “Our primary motivation has always been finding innovative ways to provide impactful assistance for those who need it most,” explained Marcus.
“We owe it all to Kramden for making it possible for us to help these kids and families like we have.” – Marcus Harris, The Marcus Harris Foundation
Kramden first partnered with the Marcus Harris Foundation in 2019, awarding devices for children receiving free haircuts through their Kutz for Kids program. Earlier this year, the collaboration expanded when Marcus launched Neighborfood Express. So far, in just a few months, Marcus and his team have helped distribute over 30 computers along with countless supplies to families in need. Thank you, Marcus, and your dedicated team at the MHF for this great partnership!
From his first tour of Kramden’s warehouse, Michael Chen knew he wanted to one day help out. “I was always interested in figuring out how things worked and what the insides of different (broken) electronics looked like,” he explained, “but I liked the idea of learning how to fix a computer so that others can have one for school or work.” While he was too young to start volunteering at the time, Michael continued to stay involved by participating in a number of Kramden’s technology classes.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, Michael decided to give back to the community by creating over 500 3D printed mask buckles. Earlier this year, Michael was recognized for his hard work with the National Honoree 2021 Prudential Spirit of Community Award. Each recipient was able to choose a non-profit to receive a $5,000 grant as part of the award and Michael selected Kramden Institute. We checked in with Michael to learn more!
How did you first become involved with Kramden?
I was very interested in electronics but was having a difficult time finding a place where I would be allowed to take more advanced classes because of my age. When my mother called Marshall at Kramden and explained our situation, he allowed me to try an Arduino class on the condition that my mother registered to take it with me because of the partner work involved. The instructor was a retired professor (Geek of the Year Lou Voerman!), and he taught the class in a very clear and engaging way. There was a lecture part where we could take notes, a diagram to be completed that explained the electronic components, and then we got hand’s-on time with Arduino. The professor also brought the HAMM radio he built for us to see! I loved the class! My mother enjoyed the class too but was relieved when Marshall told her I did so well I could attend subsequent classes without her. Delighted with this, my mother invited Kramden Institute to offer classes to other students like me through PAGE of Wake County. I have since attended every class that Kramden has offered there, including some at the Kramden campus too.
Is there something about Kramden’s work/mission in particular that you connect with? (e.g. computers for kids, recycling old computers, etc.)
Because our family had access to technology, my siblings and I were able to attend school remotely during the “pandemic school year” (2020-2021). At home, we have had discussions about inequalities in the US and how lucky we are to have the resources we needed to succeed. It makes me sad to hear that other children my age might not have access to technology at home, or even that some schools might not even have the financial resources to purchase computers for their classrooms. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting school closings have made it even more clear to me that we need to help bridge that gap. I like that Kramden is doing that and that maybe I can help too.
Tell us more about the Prudential Spirit of Community Award and your project!
I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet! It was such an honor to be recognized as a State Honoree for North Carolina, that I couldn’t quite believe it when they announced my name as one of the ten National Honorees to be recognized for the 2021 Prudential Spirit of Community Award! I am honored that the organization thought my project deserving of this recognition.
Early on in the pandemic, before the shutdowns in the US, we discussed what was going on in China (we have friends and family in East Asia) – how it has impacted their community and how it may soon affect us, given how we are all connected globally. During those conversations, one question my parents kept returning to was “how we could be part of the solution to this problem?” Of all the images coming out in the news that we were allowed to see, the ones that impacted us the most were photos of healthcare workers with sores on their faces from long-term mask-wearing. I had just used my “life-savings” to buy a 3D printer six months before, and so I tried printing a facemask that I had hoped could be reused, but that ended up not being practical or guaranteed to be safe. After some more research, I learned that long-term mask-wearing also resulted in sores behind the ears and that those could be very painful. So, I decided that I would print “mask buckles” that would keep the mask loops away from the ears and yet still keep the mask tight enough to ensure the safety of the wearer. All in all, I’ve printed – with the help from a neighbor’s colleagues, when my printer broke down – a total of 580 mask buckles. They went to Healthcare workers, our school staff, Essential workers, and the Navajo Nation.
Any fun / geeky facts about yourself you would like to share?
I love the challenge of solving puzzles and have a Rubik’s cube collection. I also love to play with magnets and seeing how weight is distributed through the designs I come up with. My favorite hobby, however, is origami. More specifically, modular origami, where I take pieces of paper and fold them into shapes that fit into each other to form a larger shape. I have a Menger sponge that I’ve been working on during my free time.
Thank you, Michael, for supporting Kramden’s mission!
Like so many families across the country, Central Carolina Community College student Nathalia and her husband found themselves scrambling for a computer in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic caught us off guard,” she explained. “We did not expect to be all taking online classes and in need of a computer at the same time.”
Before receiving a computer from Kramden, Nathalia had to share the only laptop she had at home with her husband and two kids.
“Before, I had to prioritize the kids and their classes. I had to watch recorded classes, but it is not the same thing because you cannot ask questions and interact with your professor and students. I had to stay up very late to use the computer while everyone else was sleeping.”
Last year, thanks to funding from Coastal Credit Union Foundation, Kramden refurbished and distributed 50 laptops to Central Carolina Community College students like Nathalia. This was part of a larger grant that provided funding for 500 devices for area families in 2020.
“After I had my new computer, I could get on track again and participate in live classes. My kids had a computer for them; my husband only used the computer after work, so he could use the kids’ computer, and I still had mine just for me.” Nathalia didn’t just get on track with her new computer. She used it to finish her Associate Degree with a G.P.A. of 4.0!
“I know you all aim to help and do good for us, students in need, but the reality is that what you do is so much more than can be truly measured. Some good acts have a ripple effect, and they echo in eternity” said Nathalia.
Thank you to Coastal Credit Union Foundation for your ongoing support and commitment to Kramden’s mission!
Rick Burts is Geek of the Year! Rick has volunteered over 500 hours since first joining Kramden in 2018. Prior to the COVID-19 shutdowns, along with helping in the warehouse, Rick served as a regular assistant for Kramden’s in-person digital literacy classes. Throughout 2020 Rick showed up week after week (with his mask on!) logging over 250 hours and playing a huge role in helping Kramden get computers out the door during the pandemic. Thank you, Rick, for your continued support and dedication to Kramden’s mission!
Favorite Geek Books: Interconnections Bridges and Routers by Radia Perlman which is a wonderful description of the basics of networking computers and started me down the path of working with networks
Favorite TV Show: NCIS
Favorite Geek Movie: Star Wars series
Favorite Geek Website: Kramden.org
What is the geekiest thing about you? I really like to figure out how things work. And I really like to solve puzzles. And those things combine when I am working on triage and/or final test for our computers.
What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Kramden? Earlier in my career, I was a teacher, and (when we were able to offer in-person classes) I really was gratified to be able to assist with our classes. I continue to feel proud of what we do in the warehouse to provide computers to those who otherwise would not have access to a computer.
Best Kramden Moment? I was at the opticians being fitted for a new pair of glasses. I mentioned that after the fitting I would be going out to Kramden to volunteer. The young lady who was doing the fitting responded “OH Kramden!! When I was in school they gave me a computer. It made such a difference for me”. Encountering someone to whom we made such a difference was inspiring.
When you are not volunteering at Kramden, what do you do? I work on various projects around the house and the yard. I like to cook and am proud of the sourdough starter which I have maintained for about 20 years. There is an online forum for people who use Cisco networking equipment and I am an active participant in this community.