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After spotting what he deemed a shortage of computers among the organizations in the neighborhoods he represents, state Assemblyman Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) set to work looking for donations to help bridge the digital divide.After months of searching, the assemblyman found a willing donor in Health Plus Health Insurance, which he said was in the midst of a systems upgrade, casting off its old machines in favor of newer models. Peralta said he approached the company, which agreed to offer 20 of its old machines to be distributed to non-profits and schools that Peralta's office had identified."There's a huge need," Peralta said. "Getting 20 computers is great because this is the first step in the right direction."Joined July 8 by Health Plus CEO Tom Early, Peralta made what he hoped would be only the first distribution of donated computer equipment, making machines available to such schools and organizations as PS 19; PS 69; PS 16; the Elmhurst-Jackson Heights Senior Center; Raices Senior Center; the Corona Senior Center; the Dominican-American Society; the Guardian Angels; the Colombian Civic Center; Queens Hispanic Community Service; the Corona-Elmhurst Economic Development Corp.; Denman Neighborhood Watch; and Latin Women United."By donating these computers, we are able to help local organizations move (to) 21st-century technology," Early said in a release.But that was just the first step, Peralta said."We are in the beginning of a technological advancement phase which will catapult this community to greater heights," Peralta said.He said he is redoubling his efforts to attract new and used donations to get at least one computer to every non-profit in his district that can demonstrate a need for one.Peralta said he has already contacted Dell and Apple, two major computer manufacturers."The idea is that we can get enough computers to eventually have enough computers for computer labs," Peralta said.Peralta's initiative, which he said is aimed at capitalizing on the upward trend inaugurated with the recent formation of the Corona-Elmhurst Economic Development Corp., has also helped make computer training available to the organizations."We also lucked out," he said. "We found immediately Victor Lopez."Peralta said Lopez, a community leader who works at PS 16, volunteered to provide computer instruction.Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.
©2004 Community Newspaper Group
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