By Erin Meade
Kaiser Permanente today made a donation of approximately 50 gently used computers to various Baltimore schools and community organizations. This is the second such donation this year, and a wonderful example of our organization’s unique reach through internal and external partnerships. The donation is made after the computers are completely scrubbed of all Kaiser Permanente data and programs, then reprogrammed with software appropriate for the recipient organizations. This ensures that our organizational data is safe and there’s no risk to members or staff.
This donation is just a small part of our ongoing commitment to the youth in Baltimore and across the region. Economically disadvantaged people, particularly children, face tremendous challenges in accessing technology. In the long term, this can negatively impact academic readiness and achievement for youth who lag behind without ready access to the knowledge expansion that technology provides. Our Community Health Needs Assessment reflected this need, and made clear that education and academic readiness are key determinants of health that we must address to support health in the communities we serve.
The beneficiaries of today’s donation are:
- Moravia Park Elementary School
- Tench Tilghman Elementary/Middle School
- Stuart Hill Elementary School
- Intersection of Change – Martha’s Place Program
- Maryland Community Health Initiatives, Inc. (Penn-North)
Mike Willis, Vice President and Business Information Officer, took the time to answer some questions about this donation for us.
Q & A – Michael O. Willis, PhD.
Q: We understand this is the second donation of Kaiser Permanente PC’s to Baltimore schools and community organizations. How did this project come about?
A: As an organization, we must update computers and other equipment to meet the needs of our physicians, clinicians, staff, and the marketplace. When this occurs, we often have the ability to provide the community with equipment that is no longer being used within our organization but can be extremely valuable to others. In this case we are providing computers with software and monitors to schools and community organizations. These computers will allow students and community members to have access to the internet for a variety of purposes, including to conduct research, look for jobs, and obtain healthcare information. Given the tremendous need that exists for computers, this provides significant benefits to the communities we serve.
Q: How were the recipients of this donation selected?
A: Our Community Benefits Department has extensive knowledge of the schools in Baltimore and the needs that exist within those settings. We were, therefore, able to get direction from them. We also reached out to organizations like Business Volunteers Maryland and One Baltimore. Based on the information we collected, we were able to determine where our donations might be of the most value.
Q: Tell us about the partnership between IT and Community Benefit to make this happen.
A: It is an incredible partnership between IT and Community Benefit in this region. It is a perfect demonstration of the power of teamwork. Moreover, this is a prime example of how committed our employees are in developing and implementing programs that can leverage the collective resources of Kaiser Permanente.
Q: You live in the Baltimore area. How does it feel to see Kaiser Permanente’s commitment to Baltimore continue to grow?
A: It really makes me proud to work here. We are all aware of the challenges that many of those that live in the Baltimore area are facing. When you see the number of volunteers that step forward to help with their time and their hearts, it is overwhelming. The greatest feeling comes when you see firsthand how much programs like this mean to a student, teacher, member of the community, or parent.
Q: Why is it important to provide computers to these schools and organizations? What does this mean to the students and members of the community?
A: If we step back for a moment and reflect on how important access to a computer is to the way we conduct our daily lives, it is impossible to imagine functioning without one. Unfortunately many of the schools find themselves in this very position. We read so much about the digital divide that exists in many of our major cities. This initiative is a step in helping to close that gap. It provides immediate benefits that are enormous. When we make a donation of this nature, we are not just giving a computer; we are giving the ability to learn about the world, apply to college, explore the arts, or just feel connected. It is important to note that schools are also a resource center for those in the community that have similar needs including the ability to develop a resume or look for a job.