First Niagara Financial Group donated $500,000 worth of “gently used” computers and related equipment to a local nonprofit agency that seeks to put computers in classrooms and provides computer training for at-risk children in Buffalo.
The in-kind donation of at least 6,600 pieces of equipment marks the largest single gift in the 15-year history of Computers For Children, the bank and the agency announced Tuesday. The donation includes 2,200 computers, 2,200 monitors and 2,200 keyboards that had been collected by Buffalo-based First Niagara in recent years through a series of acquisitions.
“This is more than just a donation,” said Christine Carr, executive director of Computers For Children. “This is a true partnership for the greater good. With this contribution, the programs we will be able to complete for the educational future of our children and our community are significant.”
The bank also recycled about 100,000 pounds of computer equipment considered unusable and gave the $14,000 in proceeds to the agency as an additional donation.
“We had the computers and other equipment and Computers For Children had the need, so it was a perfect fit,” said Elizabeth Gurney, executive director of the First Niagara Foundation.
Bank officials said the donation could be the start of a regular pipeline, since First Niagara has more unneeded computers and equipment in its facilities, and is always upgrading and replacing what it does use.
“This is new territory for us,” Gurney said. “Banks basically have money and people. We don’t really have a product or much else to give away. … We haven’t had much experience in providing gifts in-kind.”
Steven J. Harvey, president of the agency’s board and executive director of the Western New York Consortium of Higher Education, said, “It’s also a great example of how the business community in Buffalo is coming forward and working more and more with schools and community agencies … because it truly does take a community to raise a child and to prepare them for their careers.”
Founded in 1997, Computers For Children was the first nonprofit in the state and only the second in the nation to focus on erasing the digital divide in schools. It works mostly with needy inner-city Buffalo schools, charter schools such as Tapestry and Global Concepts, Catholic schools and other private schools to provide them with computer equipment. It has donated 15,000 computers since its inception – 12,000 to the Buffalo Public Schools – and says that it has reached more than 91,000 students.
It also has a retail store to sell low-cost, refurbished computers through Goodwill Industries, the Buffalo City Mission and at its offices in the Larkin Center of Commerce, with proceeds benefiting the agency and its partners.
Additionally, it runs KidCo, a technology and computer skills training program, to teach students of various ages how to build, refurbish, use and even dismantle computers.
The agency also has a large summer technology camp, Summer TechMasters Academy, which has enrolled more than 350 students ages 10 to 15 since its 2010 launch. And its middle school program also offers a robotic component to teach science, technology, engineering and math skills, as well as software training.