Non­profit pro­vides skills via tech­nol­ogy

Low-cost in­ter­net for res­i­dents in poverty

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY SHERESE GORE

LYNCHBURG, VA. | It was a quick les­son on the per­ils of re­veal­ing too much on­line.

There are many Face­book ac­counts with an­other per­son’s pic­ture on it, and peo­ple think they have met “Mr. and Mrs. Right,” Tammy Pol­lard said to her class at Park View Com­mu­nity Mis­sion in Septem­ber.

“Turns out it’s ‘Mr. Wrong,’ or ‘Mr. I-want-your­money,’ or ‘Ms. I-need-some­body-to-take-care-ofme,”’ Ms. Pol­lard said.

The com­puter class, which taught in­ter­net and of­fice skills, was of­fered through Light­house Com­mu­ni­ca­tions. The Lynchburg non­profit pro­vides low-cost, high-speed in­ter­net to peo­ple liv­ing below the fed­eral poverty level, non­prof­its and the com­mu­nity at large.

For stu­dents who live below the fed­eral poverty guide­lines, the class is free. An in­di­vid­ual who makes less than $11,880 an­nu­ally meets the fed­eral poverty guide­line. For oth­ers, the cost of the class is based on a sliding scale.

The mis­sion of Light­house Com­mu­ni­ca­tions can be summed up in the bi­b­li­cal verse Hosea 4:6, which states: “My peo­ple are de­stroyed for lack of knowl­edge.”

Light­house at­tempts to re­duce peo­ple’s suf­fer­ing through of­fer­ing knowl­edge, said its founder, Mark Lindy.

“The in­ter­net is the way that knowl­edge is con­veyed in the 21st cen­tury,” he said.

Around 2001, Mr. Lindy was work­ing at Gen­worth Fi­nan­cial Inc. as a data cen­ter en­gi­neer when he said he re­ceived a calling from God to quit his job and start a com­pany with the pur­pose of com­mu­ni­cat­ing God’s mes­sage of love and hope.

About a year later, he quit his po­si­tion at the in­sur­ance firm to ded­i­cate him­self to his start-up, Dig­i­tal One, a com­pany with ser­vices that in­clude live in­ter­net stream­ing for churches, video pro­duc­tion and screen and pro­jec­tor graph­ics. Through the in­ter­net, home­bound wor­ship­pers can watch church ser­vices live and con­trib­ute through vir­tual tithing.

The non­profit Light­house Com­mu­ni­ca­tions came by way of a sec­ond calling, Mr. Lindy said.

As a vol­un­teer at Park View Com­mu­nity Mis­sion, he be­gan to no­tice the same peo­ple com­ing to the mis­sion each week and won­dered why some ap­peared to not be mov­ing for­ward in life.

“That’s when the voice said, ‘strap an an­tenna to the steeple and see what hap­pens,”’ he said.

Light­house Com­mu­ni­ca­tions was in­cor­po­rated around 2014 and pro­vides low-cost in­ter­net ser­vice to house­holds liv­ing below the fed­eral poverty level guide­lines.

The non­profit cur­rently has about 25 clients, which also in­clude non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions and busi­nesses. Non­prof­its re­ceive a re­duced rate, and busi­nesses are billed com­pet­i­tive mar­ket rates. All fees, in­clud­ing those from non­prof­its and busi­nesses, sup­port Light­house.

An an­tenna on Park View’s bell tower broad­casts mi­crowave sig­nals, and Light­house is lim­ited to pro­vid­ing in­ter­net ser­vice to within a two-mile ra­dius around Park View Com­mu­nity Mis­sion.

Light­house be­gan of­fer­ing com­puter classes about a year ago. Mr. Lindy had been pro­vid­ing one-on-one com­puter as­sis­tance as a Park View vol­un­teer, help­ing peo­ple with job searches or send­ing email.

The de­mand for in­ter­net skills such as job search­ing and ba­sic of­fice skills was so great, he said.

“We had no choice [but] to be­gin the class,” Mr. Lindy said.

In a city where about a quar­ter of its pop­u­la­tion lives in poverty, for some Lynchburg res­i­dents, in­ter­net ac­ces­si­bil­ity is not so much a prob­lem of avail­abil­ity but cost.

That re­al­ity was ev­i­dent in Light­house’s com­puter class. Stu­dent Mag­gie El­liot had in­ter­net ser­vice years ago but no longer has it be­cause of the cost. Stu­dent Gerard Hutch­er­son, too, once had in­ter­net but had to cut it off be­cause of the ex­pense.


In­struc­tor Tammy Pol­lard fist bumps with a stu­dent at a com­puter class at Park View Com­mu­nity Mis­sion in Lynchburg, Vir­ginia. The class pro­vides low-cost in­ter­net ser­vice for those below fed­eral poverty guide­lines.

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