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Men refurbish computers for the disabled

March 05, 1999

Refurbished computersBy RICHARD D. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




GREENCASTLE, Pa. - A couple of disabled men who depend on computers to link them with the world want to help others like them by rebuilding and reprogramming old computers for them at no cost.

They are setting up their shop in the back room of a new computer retail business that is opening at 17 W. Baltimore St.

Robert Stoner, 52, of Montgomery Church Road, and William Kent, 40, of Cascade, Md., were injured in separate traffic accidents 14 years ago. Stoner suffered spinal damage that left him on permanent disability. Kent ended up in a wheelchair following a motorcycle accident near his parents' home in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.

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Both said they felt isolated from the rest of society for years after their accidents until they learned how to use computers.

"I was housebound for four years until I bought a computer," Stoner said. I got books and taught myself. I took them apart to see how they worked."

Then a disabled neighbor asked Stoner to build her a computer.

"I knew she didn't have any money, so I picked up a few old machines and built one out of parts for her. Other people asked me to build one for them, too. I guess I've rebuilt and given away about 10 so far."

Stoner uses donated parts he salvages from old computers people give him. "Used computers are not worth very much, but they're worth a fortune to somebody who can't afford one," he said.

Kent said he and Stoner try to match each computer to the individual's needs. In one case, a 9-year-old girl paralyzed on her right side from strokes was unable to do her homework because she couldn't write with her left hand. Stoner built her a laptop that she takes to school.

His next computer will go to a woman who wrote to him saying that she suffers from diabetes and can't leave her home. "Her doctors and pastor said a computer would help her," Stoner said, adding he is building a computer for the woman with a program that will help her to challenge her mind.

Their back room repair shop is being provided by Christina Mills, who is opening Mills Computer and Associates. In return for the room, Stoner and Kent will handle customers who come in when Mills is out.

Mills' husband, John Mills, who is suffering from severe back problems, said he will give Stoner and Kent computers that come into the store as trade-ins. He will also check the stories of people who ask for computers to ensure that they are deserving, Stoner said.

Stoner is compiling lists of disabled people who need computers and lists of possible sources of used computers to build up a parts inventory.

Anyone wishing to sign up for a computer or who has one to donate can e-mail Stoner at disabled@pa.net or call him at 717-597-1815.

Kent said he and Stoner are setting up their own Web site.

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