by Sue Austreng
These days, it seems a computer with Internet access is mandatory equipment in order to conduct a job search, find a home, write a resume, finish homework or apply for benefits.
For many underprivileged folks in Anoka County, a computer is a luxury item, one they cannot afford.
And so, adding to its extensive social service programs already in existence, the Salvation Army Harvest Corps of Coon Rapids recently announced the grand opening of its community computer lab.
The lab is open to the public and is stocked with five computers resting on table tops in a quiet corner of the Salvation Army building located on Ibis Street.
“Anyone can use these computers – they don’t have to be part of a Salvation Army program. Our computer lab is open to the public,” said volunteer Carmen Hayes, who created the computer lab in order to expand the Salvation Army’s community service programs.
“This is another resource the Salvation Army provides for those in need in our area. It’s just another one of our services,” Hayes said.
The computer lab is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Anyone wishing to use the Salvation Army computer lab can just stop by during those hours on those days and sit down at a computer.
No appointment is necessary, there is no time limit and there is no cost involved.
Posted guidelines in the computer lab describe proper use of the equipment (must be used for “useful things to make yourself better”) and there is always someone around to help or answer questions if needed.
As the computer lab gets to be more popular, Hayes hopes to expand the services the lab provides.
“I’m trying to put together a job panel and job fairs, classes on how to write a resume,” Hayes said.
“I also want to provide housing information and have a HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) representative come in to explain how that all works.
This would be a smaller version of the county’s work force center… something that’s closer and provides other services, too.”
Hayes and Salvation Army social worker Sue Rosendahl each described the computer lab as a complementary program to what’s offered in other places.
“This is just another resource for people, we’re not in competition with the others, just offering another resource,” Rosendahl said.
“In fact, Anoka County knows what we’re doing here and they are in full support.”
Hayes’ immediate goals include offering lessons on interview skills and contacting local companies to gather tips on when and how people can apply for positions with them.
“I just want this to be another way we can help people find a job, find housing, improve their life,” Hayes said.
The Salvation Army Harvest Corps is located at 10347 Ibis St. N.W., Coon Rapids.
For more information about the computer lab there, call the corps at 763-755-6873. To learn more about the Salvation Army, visit www.thesalarmy.org.
Sue Austreng is at firstname.lastname@example.org