Project Connect  
Food Pantry Computerization Project
Info Line Gets Funding to Computerize 15 Food Pantries

AKRON, OH - The Community Technology Fund has awarded Info Line, Inc., $50,000 to computerize 15 area food pantries as a pilot project. With the assistance of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, the Food Pantry Computerization Project can revolutionize the procedures needed to provide food to those who need it most. 

Info Line was one of 39 not-for-profit organizations in Ohio to receive a total of $754,000 from the Computer Technology Fund (CTF) to narrow the digital divide. Funding has been distributed to organizations that have developed innovative programs to bring technology equipment and education to Ohio citizens. 

Paul Weirtz (right), Director of External Affairs at SBC, presents the Community Technology Fund grant award to Info Line's Susan Pierson, Vice President - Services, and John Dagilis, Vice President - Operations
Using a state-of-the art computer terminal server, Project Connect (Info Line's non-profit technology program) will provide 15 representative pantries with computers, printers, and a connection to Info Line's computer network. Through this network, participants can utilize Microsoft Office 2000 software to write letters, create spreadsheets, and send e-mail to clients, volunteers, and donors. A listserv will allow all pantries to efficiently communicate with each other. 

In addition, the pilot project involves working closely with the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank to develop a clearinghouse database. "With the computers and internet access, pantry volunteers and staff will be able to communicate with each other and coordinate their efforts," said Dan Sveda, Executive Director of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. "The clearinghouse database will enable the pantries to get a better picture of the families using their services and therefore plan more accurately." 

The CTF is an important part of the negotiated agreement approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in the Ameritech/SBC merger. The CTF board is a five-member body comprised of representatives from Ohio Consumers' Counsel, Edgemont Neighborhood Coalition of Dayton, SBC Ohio, Parkview Areawide Seniors Inc. of Cleveland, and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. "The groups we've awarded grants to are doing very important work. We're pleased to be able to help them bring the benefits of technology to their communities," said Ellis Jacobs, Ohio CTF chairman and counsel for the Edgemont Neighborhood Coalition. 

"The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio is proud to work with the Community Technology Fund Board in its efforts to assist low-income communities to effectively utilize computers and the Internet," PUCO Chairman Alan Schriber said. "In the advent of Ohio's rapid technology growth in the telecommunications industry, I am pleased to see that the CTF Board is reaching out to those who may not have an opportunity to access these services. I believe that this is in keeping with Governor Taft's policy of making technology available to all Ohioans."

"Through the Ohio Community Technology Fund program, SBC is able to support organizations that are finding creative ways to use telecommunications and technology solutions to narrow the digital divide," said James Smith, president of SBC Ohio. "We commend these organizations for their vision and commitment to the less fortunate among us. Their societal contributions are invaluable." The entire list of projects that have been funded in this first grant round is available on the CTF web site at

Project Connect was initially funded in 1998 by the GAR Foundation with the mission to help non-profits use technology and connectivity more efficiently. An advisory council of area experts in technology, non-profit management, and education developed the project's initial goals and objectives and are integral to the program as it continues to add new services. "The advisory council is the primary reason for Project Connect's success," adds Jacquie Skrzypiec, manager of the project. "Their dedication and level of expertise have helped us to develop one of the most comprehensive non-profit technology/connectivity initiatives in the country." 



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