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Karen Ocamb

David Bohnett Foundation gives $500,000 in 'refresh' grants

Filed By Karen Ocamb | February 06, 2010 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: David Bohnett Foundation, Lorri Jean, Michael Fleming, Paul Moore

RachelLorri Jean and Cyber center Maddow fans know how she gets all geeky-giggly when talking about "infrastructure" - how great the need is to fix and maintain the crumbling structures and the highways and byways that keep America moving.

Perhaps someone in the US Interior Department should talk to Michael Fleming, Executive Director of the David Bohnett Foundation to see how it's done. Late Wednesday, Fleming announced grants totalling $500,000 to "refresh" the computers in 24 David Bohnett CyberCenters across the United States, including the CyberCenter at the LA Gay & Lesbian Center.

(Pictured: Paul Moore, Program Manager, David Bohnett Foundation and Lorri L. Jean, Chief Executive Officer of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center; photo by Patricia Williams.)

The "refresh" program was started in 2004 to keep the CyberCenters up-to-date with each CyberCenter receiving brand new state-of-the-art equipment on a consistent basis, about every three to four years.

Building self-perpetuation into a development plan - what a concept! But this is not just routine maintenance: this is social activism quietly at work.

Photo Karen Ocamb

In 1994, David Bohnett co-created GeoCities, which was subsequently sold to Yahoo. He established the David Bohnett Foundation to "improve society through social activism" - and as a gay man, he assumed the mantle of helping LGBT people help themselves. It was a time before the AIDS drugs cocktails made HIV a "manageable disease," when funding grants from the state and the antigay Republican-controlled Congress were hard to get, and many libraries considered the word "gay" to mean "pornography" and blocked Internet access to information on their computers.

Knowing that access to information - access to knowledge - is vital to education, research, confronting lies, networking and personal development - as well as just having fun with online games - Bohnett worked with the LA Gay & Lesbian Center to open the first David Bohnett CyberCenter in 1998 at the Village at Ed Gould Plaza. The CyberCenter proved to be so successful, the foundation used it as a model to set up 63 David Bohnett CyberCenters nationwide.

Photo Patricia Williams

Fleming says:

The Centers provide a safe environment for members of the LGBT community -- from youth who may find themselves without a support system--to seniors, who may have little or no familiarity with computers. In today's increasingly Internet-driven world, the David Bohnett CyberCenters have proven to be a lifeline for people of all ages. We are happy to provide regular 'refresh' grants enabling groups to keep pace with the many advances in computer hardware and software.

Lorri L. Jean, CEO the LA Gay & Lesbian Center, says:

People are sometimes surprised there's still a need for CyberCenters. The fact is, these computers remain a lifeline for many--especially LGBT seniors and youth--who depend on our David Bohnett CyberCenter to connect to the Internet in a secure and welcoming space. Most of the users don't have computers of their own, don't have Internet access, or don't have a place in which they feel comfortable visiting LGBT-related sites. That's why we're so grateful to the David Bohnett Foundation for its generous and continuing support of the CyberCenters.

Photo Patricia Williams

Paul Moore, Program Manager at the Foundation, who oversees the CyberCenter program, says:

Imagine, in 2010, being without a computer--basic activities including job searches, applications for services, educational opportunities and email contact with family and friends would be nearly impossible.

The David Bohnett CyberCenters fill that void by providing free computer access, Internet and learning opportunities. The CyberCenters are typically equipped with 5-10 computer stations loaded with a broad range of updated programs and software for business and personal computing. The CyberCenters also offer community education and training on best Internet practices, online security, and general computer usage.

In 2010, the Foundation is funding "refresh" grants to 24 locations throughout the United States, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Cleveland, Columbus, Denver, Duke University, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Long Island, Milwaukee, Orange County, St Petersburg, San Jose, Seattle, Tampa, Tulsa, Salt Lake City, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, UC Riverside, University of Pennsylvania, University of Utah, and Washington, D.C.

Equipment upgrades include Lenovo all-in-one A70z PC customized bundle with Microsoft Office software, Windows Pro 7 - 19" Widescreen Monitors in addition to Documate 510 Flatbed Scanners and IBM Infoprint color laser printers.

From the foundation's press release:

David Bohnett Foundation

Since 1999, the David Bohnett Foundation (www.bohnettfoundation.org) has been committed to improving society through social activism, and has provided funding, state-of-the-art technology and technical support to innovative organizations and institutions. Grants totaling over $35m to date have been given in several primary funding areas: The Fund for Los Angeles, supporting a broad spectrum of arts, educational and civic programs; LGBT-related causes; voting rights and registration initiatives; supporting research and public policies to reduce the toll of firearm violence; and animal research and rights.

David Bohnett serves as Chair of the David Bohnett Foundation; the head of the private equity firm Baroda Ventures and was the founder of GeoCities.com, an Internet based media and e-commerce company in 1994. GeoCities was acquired by Yahoo! in 1999. His goals are improving lives, empowering individuals and building viable communities by connecting like-minded people in meaningful ways. Also central to Bohnett's vision is his call to action to aspiring philanthropists to begin their giving by getting personally involved with causes with which they identify so that they can experience service first-hand.

(Cross posted from LGBT POV)

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