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By: Heidi Terry-Litchfield - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Anna Hall of Connected Living explains to Mazon Park Place residents the 12-week computer courses to be offered at the facility through a grant-fund program that is already in place at Saratoga Tower in Morris. (Herald photo by Heidi Terry-Litchfield)

When residents of Saratoga Tower learned they would be getting a computer lab, some were excited, others apprehensive, but many were willing to learn.

Dennis Komnick just finished a 12-week course, part of the Connected Living program funded through grants.

“It was really good and interesting,” Komnick said. “They set it up to accommodate all people with three levels of classes.”

Komnick took the intermediate course because he already knew the basics of using a computer.

“I thought the intermediate class would be good to brush up on stuff I already knew and to learn things I didn’t know,” he said.

The class has opened up the world of photo editing to Komnick, as he learned to crop and edit images, as well as how to attach them to e-mails. He had his own computer, but the class has helped him realize how to use it more.

Now, he uses it to talk to family more, as well as a way to save money.

He loves that he can go online to price shop for items before going to a store to purchase the items for which he’s looking.

“Even at home, I use it a lot more because of the way the economy is. I can price things before going to the store,” he said. “If you take a few minutes to check things, you can find the best price and see if it is available at the store before you go.”

He said he’s seen growth in fellow residents as well. One man who often came to others to look things up for him online is now doing it himself. Others are passing recipes back and forth.

“They are using the lab to make a cookbook for a fundraiser for Saratoga Tower,” Komnick said. “They have close to 150 recipes already.”

When the residents complete the 12-week course and pass an efficiency test, they are given a desktop computer for their apartment and free Internet service until 2012, a savings of $25 a month.

This week, residents in Mazon Park Place, which is ran by the Grundy Development Corporation, opened their new computer lab. It is run by the same program and grant funding.

Residents there will also be offered the 12-week courses and will have the opportunity to receive a computer to use in their apartments as long as they reside there.

“Our vision is not about just being on a computer, but about people getting connected to one another,” Anna Hall with Connected Living said.

Mazon Park Place, which is open to residents 55 and older, provides affordable living in its 20 apartments. The computer lab has been placed in the community room, where it will be available to all the residents.

A community outreach program is also in the works to offer the classes to other residents of Mazon.
Mazon is the smallest community in Northern Illinois to participate in the program.


“You will be connected to the other residents through Connected Living, and you will realize some of the most interesting people you know live right here with you,” Hall said. “Today, you become trailblazers, pioneers, and trendsetters.”

Several residents voiced openly during the grand opening meeting how excited they are to have the opportunity to learn the computer and have one in their own home.

The Grundy County Housing Authority and Grundy Development Corporation are members of the Illinois Senior Internet Adoption Coalition, a group consisting of nine public housing authorities, five private providers of affordable housing, Dominican University and other partners.

My Way Village, a Quincy, Mass.,-based social impact company, worked cooperatively with DSSA Strategies, an Illinois-based company, to secure the grant that is providing the services and computers.
Brent Newman, CEO of GCHA, said more than $4.7 million in federal funding was awarded competitively through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and more than $1.2 million in Illinois Jobs Now! public works funding provided the financial support needed to secure the federal grant for Illinois.

Coalition partners are contributing an addition $900,000 in in-kind matching funds to bring the total project value to $6.8 million.

Grant funds will be used in Morris and Mazon to establish computer learning centers at Saratoga Tower and Mazon Park Place, and to provide training to building residents in the use of computers and the Internet. The program will fund the on-site computer learning center, two years of on-site instruction, and free computing services for building residents.