Underprivileged students in Southwest Florida would be the beneficiaries of a nationwide online voting contest conducted by Safeco Insurance awarding cash donations to worthy charitable causes.
Computer Angels, based in Cape Coral, was selected by Regency Insurance Group in Fort Myers as its designated charity for Safeco's Make More Happen Award that could net the nonprofit as much as $13,500 to deliver refurbished computers to students who do not have one to use at home. Computer Angels distributes working computers with age appropriate software to individuals and agencies in Lee, Charlotte, Collier, Hendry and Glades counties.
"Computers are easy to get," said Computer Angels founder Mike LaRochelle. "The problem is funding to clean them up, fix them up and get them out. Most of our desktop and laptop computers are three or four years old. Some companies have discovered that if they donate them to charities like us within two years that they can get a tax break."
LaRochelle said the Guadalupe Center in Immokalee will be getting 10 computers next week.
"They are on the front lines in helping those in need," said LaRochelle.
Safeco's Make More Happen Award is nearing the end of a three-week online voting period that ends at 1 p.m. on May 19. Anyone age 13 or older is eligible to vote once every 24 hours by clicking the "vote now" button at www.safeco.com/about-safeco/community/make-more-happen-vote.
The top vote-getter receives a $10,000 grant from Safeco and the charity with the second-most votes receives $5,000. If the winning charity garners 25,000 total votes all charities receive an additional $500. Each charity in the program earned a $3,000 grant up front for being selected.
"We're always scrounging for monetary donations," said LaRochelle. "We accept donations on our website and we do some fundraisers. The Safeco grant will go a long way to help us."
Computer Angels, founded in 2012, rose out of a chance meeting at a local storage facility. LaRochelle was helping a friend move things at his storage unit when the unit next door opened its door.
"It was packed with computers," said LaRochelle. "It belonged to a local real estate agency and the guy said they were going to go to the landfill. I thought there's got to be a use for those since they were in working condition."
Computer Angels was born and the number of computers finding their way to landfills was reduced and redirected to help students gain access to internet technology. The vice president of the nonprofit's board of directors, Kagen Cooksley, is one of the founders of the Regency Insurance Group that plugged Computer Angels into the Make More Happen Award contest.
Safeco, based in Massachusetts, uses the program to recognize independent insurance agencies in its network that serve their communities through volunteering. At least 50 recipients nationwide are recognized each year for their volunteer efforts through Make More Happen.
"At some point we realize we have to expand our services and will need help," said LaRochelle.
For more information or to donate to Computer Angels visit their website at www.computerangel.org.