Johnson County to give out-of-service computers to nonprofits

With concerns amassing about the effects of social isolation on social-service organizations, Johnson County has approved old county laptops to be given to nonprofits who demonstrate a need.

The+Johnson+County+Board+of+Supervisors+meets+on+Tuesday%2C+Jan.+21%2C+2020.+The+Supervisors+discussed+budget+items+for+the+year.+

Emily Wangen

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors meets on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. The Supervisors discussed budget items for the year.

Rin Swann, News Reporter


As the division between those with access to technology and those without becomes increasingly starker in light of social-distancing restrictions, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors will earmark its out-of-service computers for area social-service nonprofits to give to those without at-home tech.

Approximately 30 PCs and 40-50 laptops that are out of commission will be available for the nonprofits to apply for, according to the Board of Supervisors’ meeting agenda.

The computers, which would have initially been sold on Craigslist, will be offered to nonprofits after interested groups provide a brief proposal stating how they would use the technology.

Most of the computers are over 10 years old and are missing webcams, and some are missing hardware, so the proposal will ensure that the groups can make the computers functional for families.

The concept was first proposed by Lynette Jacoby, Johnson County social-services director, who cited concerns about the mental-health effects of social isolation.

“While social isolation is definitely a protective factor against the COVID-19 virus, social isolation is also a risk factor for a lot of other issues for the families that we work with,” Jacoby said. “We know that prolonged social isolation can result in depression and anxiety, so it can have a negative impact on an individual’s mental health.”

Jacoby stated that some of the organizations she works with said families are not equipped with electronic devices, so it was more difficult for them to maintain contact with others.

Solon Senior Support voiced concerns about seniors in the community. Solon Senior Support offers support services to seniors including in-person visits and phone calls, outdoor work, and computer and technology assistance for older individuals who may have difficulty completing such tasks.

RELATED: Iowa City Senior Center partners with Johnson County nonprofit to sew masks for seniors

Acquiring technology and funding was a goal of the organization more than a year prior to COVID-19, Jill Weetmen, president and director of Solon Senior Support, said. But recent events have made her speed up the timeline.

She highlighted the difficulty of seniors who may not be familiar with technology with staying connected, in addition to basic concerns like attending online physician appointments or ordering groceries.

“So many things are now online, whether it be church services or shopping, or even visiting family,” Weetman said. “There are so many things online that we really want to help our seniors get more involved and more experiences with technology.”

Jeff Kellbach, Johnson County aging specialist, said the world is currently experiencing the social isolation many older adults already face.

“So many people are affected with not being able to go into the office, seeing everybody, and just sharing what is going on in their world,” Kellbach said. “This is kind of the voice of many older adults that don’t have the means to get out and we’re seeing that right now.”

Solon Senior Support will be one of the groups applying for the out-of-date computers and Weetman said it currently aims to apply for about five.

Applications are open to any interested organization that can identify a need and demonstrates how it will provide technical assistance and an ability to outfit the computer.

Rod Sullivan, the Johnson County chair supervisor, emphasized that there is no expense to the county by choosing to give the laptops to nonprofits.

“These are machines that have already been owned for a long time,” Sullivan said. “They’ve lived their whole life, pretty much, and they were just going to be given away anyway, so this is just a more targeted giving.”

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