HOPE - Helping Other People Excel

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Safety Harbor Neighborhood Family Center
City & State:
Safety Harbor, 
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

To nuture and strengthen children, youth, adults and their families and communities through ducation, support services and collaborative partnerships.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

Mary slowly walks into the Neighborhood Family Center, her friend found the Center on the Internet and told her to go to the Food Pantry there. She has never had to ask for food before and feels like she has let her sons, Josh and Marquis, down. She lost her job, if only she had taken the computer classes…she might still have a job. She looks around and sees seniors sitting in the lobby waiting for food, she sees a homeless man sitting there too. Why am I here? She asks herself. Then she sees other faces, people like her who probably lost their job, just trying to make it for one more day. She goes to the table to register and fills out a card. She is told she will be put in the database (Access) and how the pantry works…Mondays and Fridays 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm. She walks over to the table and sees a flyer on the summer program for kids. Josh and Marquis would really like this, she thinks. But there is a fee, can’t do it she says to herself. Then she sees the computer classes for kids and it’s free. They need this, they need to know how to use the computer or they will be in the same boat I am today. As she look farther down she discovers computer classes for adults, but there is a fee.


Just then a volunteer comes up to her, Paul, and starts talking to her. At first she explains she is there for food. She lost her job, she has two kids, she is trying to get a job. Paul sees the flyer in her hand and asks her if her kids want to go to Bright Ideas Camp. She wants to sign them up, but can’t afford it. She will sign them up for the free computer classes. Paul hands her a scholarship application form and tells her to apply. He looks at her and says is there something else we can help you with? Do you have a place to live, is the rent paid, what about… Mary stops him and says the electric is going to be turned off in three days and she doesn’t know what she can do. Tears are welling up in her eyes and she looks away.


Paul gently tells her to come with him and he takes her into an office to meet with Diane. He explains that Diane is a Family Support Specialist and she can help her. Mary thinks to herself no one can really help me. Diane begins asking her questions. Mary breaks down and tells her story…how she lost her job, the kids, trying to find a new job, no access to a computer, doesn’t know how to use one very well anyway, needs food, electric is going to be turned off…


By the time she left Diane’s office, together they had created goals and an action plan, including computer classes for her. The electric bill was paid by the Center and scholarships for her two boys to attend Bright Ideas Camp. Diane took her to the computer lab, and Malu helped her sign up for unemployment and food stamps. Walking her through each screen, Mary was able to complete both applications.


Fast forward to today, and Mary has attended several computer classes. She has a resume (that she created in Word), and she comes in daily to search the Internet for jobs. Her kids love the camp and are now learning to design a web page using Front Page. She is receiving unemployment and food stamps to help her get by. With her increased computers skills, she is finally getting interviews and a job is close. She came into the Center feeling hopeless and distraught. Today she has hope for herself and for her children.


Mary’s story is not unique, we see it every day. We are a grass roots organization serving families in need in Safety Harbor, Oldsmar, and Eastern Clearwater, Florida. For the families it is about survival. Food from the Food Pantry, clothes from the Clothing Closet, basic hygiene products, limited financial help, a hot shower for the homeless are just a few of our services. As a small non-profit, Microsoft products enabled us to have a web site built with Front Page, create brochures and flyers through Publisher, thank you letters through Word, budgets through Excel, and addresses of clients through Access. These are critical to us to provide the services in our community. We are dependent on these valuable Microsoft products to meet our mission.


Many believe the digital divide is just about economics, but is also about usability and empowerment. We provide access to computers and the Internet, an economic hardship for some families despite the decline in computer prices. A growing number of the unemployed have had to cut expenses including Internet access fees. With many schools requiring students to do research online, how does a child complete his homework assignment after school with no computer in the home? Or research a paper on the internet? Our technology lab is open every day, giving students access to Microsoft software products to help them be successful in school.


The newspaper industry discovered long ago to write for the sixth grade level; the internet however has no such standard. Read some of the web sites or read some of the software manuals to see just how difficult it can be for those to understand the material. We offer computer classes to make the computer more usable to our families. We have classes for K-5, middle school, and high school students to teach them basic skills in Word, Excel, and Publisher. We also offer classes for adults and seniors to increase their knowledge of all the Microsoft Office products and how to use the Internet. During this change in our economy where some industries have declined significantly, many adults who did not need computer skills in their former job, need them now to get employed. Seniors, who have seen their retirement savings drop, need computer skills to secure even a part time position. Our classes help them gain those skills so they too can succeed.


The internet is a powerful tool giving us the ability to access knowledge from anywhere in the world and has now become a global store to buy and sell products. Those who understand how to use the internet have the ability to access information and purchase products at lower prices. Many job opportunities are now only posted on the internet, not in the newspaper. Applications for unemployment and for food stamps are all done online. Those with access and knowledge of the internet have a distinct advantage over those without. Our technology classes help to empower clients and give them access to a whole new world.


Of course none of this would be possible without the partnership between Microsoft and Tech Soup; we simply would not be able to afford the software. We stretch every dollar; donated clothing that is unusable we recycle for cash that feeds a family. Donated computers are rebuilt and used in the lab. Every penny counts. We are truly grateful to you, our partners, Microsoft and Tech Soup for helping us provide hope to so many who are struggling today.


Every action in our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate forever in eternity.

Edwin Hubbell Chapin


Submission Category
Optimize Mission Delivery
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