MILLEDGEVILLE — Statistical estimates put the unemployment rate in the Harrisburg neighborhood at nearly 28 percent as of 2010.
Digital Bridges, Baldwin County Family Connection and the Baldwin County Parks and Recreation Department are collaborating to offer area youth and their families easy access to computers at the Collins P. Lee Center as a way to assist.
“The median income is $15,000, and the unemployment rate is 27.8 percent in the Harrisburg neighborhood as of 2010. That really got our attention,” said Janet Cavin, local Family Connection coordinator. “There has been a strong African-American community there for such a long time and there’s just been a downward spiral. If we can provide several different resources and community partners coming together, we can help make a difference.”
As community volunteers work to transform the former elementary school site into a community garden and recreational area, placing a computer resource center there seemed to also fit the neighborhood’s needs.
“We already have Wi-Fi up and running at the center. We’re hoping with some of the funds for the community garden, the recreation department will set up tables adjacent to the center so people don’t have to go inside to have computer access; they can sit outside and use their own laptops,” said Colin Moore, community resource specialist for Digital Bridges. “The real need for this is a lot of people don’t have transportation to get to us downtown, so this is a lot more accessible.”
Three MacBook laptops are currently available for use while plans are under way to install a Wi-Fi printer. Free basic computer courses will also be offered in a few months time with the possibility of afterschool and summer programming for youth.
“We will have computer clinic hours maybe once a week where people can sign up for slots and we can work one-on-one with them for 30 minutes at a time,” Moore said. “Over the summer, we can possibly have children’s classes, but we’re not sure of the demand for that in the neighborhood. The classes will initially be geared more toward adults and online job applications.”
The revitalization project at Collins P. Lee Center will also include a fenced community garden featuring healthy foods and will include an edible walking trail, fruit orchard and pavilion. The community center sits on property owned by the county and managed by the recreation department.
“[The project] is involving more and more community partners, and we’re seeing that there are really hopeful funds for this to be a pilot program. We can truly make a difference in this one area of town and then we can move to another area,” Cavin said. “This would be one more way to have access to do classwork, become Work Ready certified, and have access that is readily available. If we can help children become more successful by providing the resources, hopefully that will impact their employability.”
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