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Part of proceeds from Fox Chapel Area Rotary pays for computers for children

| Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
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Jeff McMaster, Ron Divers, Sam Henderson, Bob Zanone had the low score amongst 23 foursomes in the 2013 Rotary Golf Classic at River Forest Country Club in Freeport. They were 14-under in the Scrambles event.

Fox Chapel Area Rotary hit the greens last week and came up with, well, a lot of green.

Members raised more than $15,000 during their annual fundraiser at River Forest Country Club in Freeport, more than half of which will be used to level a different kind of playing field for local students.

At least $8,000 is earmarked for Rotary's new initiative, “Students Without Computers,” through which eligible families can receive a home computer and Internet for one year.

“We want to fill this need that community organizations told us was imminent in the area but until now did not have a viable solution,” said Mary Lee Gannon, Rotary president. “We take the Rotary motto of ‘Service before self' seriously.”

Sponsored by Comcast, costs include $150 for each computer distributed and $9.95 a month for Internet access. Families can qualify if they are on the free or reduced-price lunch program at school, can contribute $50 to the project and currently do not have Internet. About 70 families in the district are eligible.

In addition to footing the project costs, some Rotary members are volunteering to coach families with computer lessons.

Seventh-grader Nevin Wissner is eager to get a home computer, even if it's meant largely for homework help. Without one, the Dorseyville Middle School student has to spend twice as much time to earn good grades.

“I love our library and that we can use the computer there,” Nevin's mother, Diane, said about the Sharpsburg branch of the Cooper-Siegel Community Library.

“But being in a small town, the library is only open two nights a week, which makes it hard for Nevin to keep up with the work.”

George Dull, a Rotarian and retired Dorseyville Middle School counselor, said he reached out to his former colleagues for input.

“Educators confirmed that a lot of school work today is done on the computer,” he said. “They feel computers are essential to any kind of success.”

Gannon said the project was identified after she reached out to churches, nonprofit agencies and municipalities to help identify community needs.

Emma Dieffenbach, dean of students at Fox Chapel Area High School; Jamie Horne of the Sharpsburg Family Worship Center; and Hannah Ufnar, manager of Volunteers of America's All of Us Care, each agreed that students without a computer and Internet access were at a significant disadvantage for achievement, Gannon said.

Ufnar, who is distributing the computers at All of Us Care along Main Street, said families are expressing their appreciation already.

“Today, students need computers not only to keep up with schoolwork but to keep current in their community and society,” she said.

Ufnar said parents are eager to use computers to manage other household needs.

“Nevin is excited about also being able to stay in contact with friends he made that have moved away and to be able to use Facebook and email to keep in touch with them,” said Diane Wissner.

The project didn't take long to garner support from the Rotary and the local community, Gannon said, with sponsors jumping on board quickly for the golf outing.

There were 100 golfers, a new record for River Forest, Gannon said.

More than 30 corporations and individuals sponsored or donated to the Rotary raffle and the Golf Classic, Gannon said.

Prizes included a round of golf at The Club at Nevillewood, the Pittsburgh Field Club and Fox Chapel Golf Club and a pair of Steelers tickets.

“It's hard to imagine a student not having a home computer or Internet access to do their homework, apply to colleges or conduct research,” Gannon said. “Rotarians are service-oriented and if they see a need, they will step up to the plate. We are encouraging the community to partner with us in filling this need.”

Residents can contribute to the “Students Without Computers” program during a car wash July 27 at Tom Ward Sunoco, along Fox Chapel Road in O'Hara.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or tpanizzi@tribweb.com.

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