Grassroots Groups Get Free Y2K Help From Big Business

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Grassroots, nonprofit organizations whose computers need costly Y2K adjustments are finding free help at volunteer centers across the country.

Because they operate on shoestring budgets, small human service groups often use donated and outdated computers. Many are discovering their equipment will not work after Dec. 31. In an effort to keep these systems running Team Tech, a national program funded by IBM, United Way and AmeriCorps, has made diagnostic software, new hardware and technical assistance available in 15 cities.

In Detroit, the project invited area charities to two workshops with a Y2K specialist from Ford Motor Co. and another with several nonprofit organizations that had already dealt with millennium computer issues. Because there are so many small nonprofits in need of assistance, the group has been selecting 40 every year to upgrade.

Over the three-year project period, AmeriCorps volunteers are installing $135,000 in donated equipment from IBM. But the needs are so great the Michigan center is busy raising additional funding for the more than 8,000 nonprofits that operate in the Detroit area, said Dan McDougall, director of the Southeast Michigan

Information Center, which runs the Team Tech program.

'Y2K is a real big problem for nonprofits,' McDougall explained. 'Most don't have the money to buy new, compliant computers and most are old castaways to begin with. Many are finding their computers will fail.'

In San Francisco, Team Tech worked in partnership with computer science students at San Francisco State University. The students helped install Y2K-compliant equipment at area nonprofits that focus on social services. AmeriCorps volunteers will continue training and problem solving as the new year approaches.

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