PORT CHESTER, N.Y. - When Port Chester resident and technology professional David Thomas got laid off from the video conference company Focus Vision after the recession hit in 2009, he knew he wanted to start giving back, but he didn't know how.
"My wife and I have lived in Port Chester for more than 20 years," Thomas said sitting in the computer lab at Family Services of Westchester (FSW). "And we never really knew the community except for the schools."
Oddly enough it was through Thomas Edison Elementary school's former Principal Ellen Santiago that Thomas ended up where he is today, teaching free computer classes at Family Services.
"When I got here the lab was in disuse," Thomas said. "They lost their permanent staff and there was no one here to offer classes. So I asked to them 'hey, I'd like to teach classes here'."
Thomas then began preparing to teach two classes, an introductory PC class and a class in word and excel. It wasn't long after Thomas had distributed flyers that the community began responding in droves.
"Soon after we got the word we had 50 or 60 people come in and register for classes," Thomas said.
While the classes were a hit, Thomas began recognizing an additional need in the community as the majority of his students didn't have personal computers at home.
"I don't throw out my old computers. I keep them, I repurpose them and I figured I'd give these away," Thomas said. "These computers may be four, five, six, seven years old, but they're working computers, and these people are pleased to have them."
Thomas estimates that he's given away anywhere between 15-20 computers in the two years since he joined the non-profit. According to Thomas, computer donations have come from all over, including a generous donation from Rye Brook resident Dick Hubert.
Karen Fink of FSW believes Thomas has provided a great benefit to the community.
"There's a huge digital divide in the community," Fink said. "We have people in businesses that want more expertise and many of our population that's day laborers or different kind of employment that also needs to increase its computer skills. It absolutely benefits the community."
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