Fort York Food Bank. Annual Open House. 21 November 2018.

Volunteer Profile

Jon Alexander

An Inside Look at FYFB's Computer Resource Centre

The Computer Resource Centre (CRC) is an important part of FYFB's Community Drop In Centre programming. Over the past year and a half, the CRC has grown through the generous donations of FYFB supporters, great volunteers and the leadership of Jon Alexander, a computer support specialist with the Fields Institute. FYFB Connects caught up with Jon to learn more about how the CRC is meeting the needs of clients and ways for volunteers and donors to get engaged with this important resource.

How did you become involved with FYFB?

I had heard about the good work FYFB was doing in the community, so I brought some newly arrived immigrants to see what services might be available to them. I was impressed with the people at FYFB and how willing they were to help. I saw there were a number of computers in the building so I offered my skills as a computer specialist.

What role does the Computer Resource Centre play in the lives of our clients?

A lot of our clients can't afford computers at home, but they can maintain email accounts. It gives them a way to maintain contact with family and friends from around the world. The computers also enable clients to access information about services such as housing, social service agencies, daycare and more. So much government program information is handled through the internet. The Computer Resource Centre also enables clients to conduct job searches and apply for jobs. The internet has become an essential part of finding work today.

As a completely volunteer run program, how does the Computer Resource Centre work?

We have a great team of volunteers that are helping us deliver this important resource for clients. From installing and maintaining the network, software upgrades and routine maintenance, our volunteers are ensuring the Centre is available to help our clients. And all of our hardware has been donated by community-minded companies such as Cap Advisors, Idealogical, Porter-Novelli and Samis & Company. Board member Abigail Payne and her husband Kevin Beagle were also helpful in raising some funding from their friends when we moved into our new facility to help get the network installed.

Where do you see the Computer Resource Centre evolving?

More recently, our volunteers have begun offering clients tutoring on basic computer skills. With more volunteers, we would like to offer additional workshops for clients on topics such as using the internet for job searching. As well, with John Petryschuk's leadership, we have developed a pilot project where we have refurbished computers for clients who are actively volunteering in FYFB. The pilot has also resulted in FYFB developing relationships with other social agencies such as Renewal House whose volunteers have teamed with us on the project. More volunteers will create new opportunities to utilize the Centre.

How can people get involved?

If people are interested in helping train clients through tutoring and workshops, then can fill out a volunteer application online. We also need additional support on troubleshooting the network. For donors, up-to-date hardware and software is important. We would particularly welcome a community partner that offered a year's supply of toner for a multi-function printer. It is important the equipment we receive be in good working condition and not require additional consumables as we have a very lean budget at FYFB.

What do you like best about volunteering at FYFB?

I like the way people are treated at FYFB - with respect, dignity, warmth and understanding. And, the most enthusiastic volunteers are clients and past clients. This is what truly defines FYFB for me - it's not just a place to get a service, but an opportunity to be a part of a community. At FYFB, everyone has talents and something to give.

Volunteer orientation sessions are held at 2:00pm on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month. Click here to register online or drop by the Food Bank for more information.

photography courtesy of Claire Del Net

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