As Tony Reinhart was unloading a few boxes at the Thornberry Unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City last week, some of the teenagers looked on, not quite sure what awaited them.
Reinhart, regional manager of Ford Motor Company government and community relations, was delivering nearly 90 tablet computers that the Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo was donating to the Boys & Girls Clubs.
The mood changed at Thornberry, 3831 E. 43rd St., Kansas City, once the boxes were opened, revealing the tablets.
“At the end, when they got their hands on them, they kind of got excited, and that is what you want,” Reinhart said. “You want kids to get excited about learning and get excited about certain kinds of learning. Hopefully, this will help move that needle forward.”
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In addition to the tablet computers, Ford’s Operation Better World program donated $25,000, bringing the total value of the donation to the Boys & Girls Clubs on March 26 to more than $80,000.
For years, Ford has helped the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City with various donations, one of which is the organization’s Atomic Blast program in which certified teachers give lessons in math and science skills.
“This is a great contribution,” said Dave Smith, president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City. “Cash is always great. It will help keep the operation going on a daily basis for 800 or so kids.”
In many cases, Smith said, the children in Boys & Girls Clubs don’t have access to tablet computers, which are a nice tool to help with the learning process.
Reinhart said Ford respects the work the Boys & Girls clubs is doing in Kansas City.
“They do fantastic work. They have great programs that touch a lot of people,” he said.
In the last 18 months, the Kansas City Assembly plant has prospered, especially as it retooled its body shop to start production of the redesigned 2015 Ford F-150 truck.
The launch team for the installation of the new equipment at the Kansas City Assembly Plant first used the donated tablets. The tablets are about a year old and were in good shape.
“We replace our technology fairly frequently,” Reinhart said. “We had the ability to do something with these. We picked this because it gave us a chance to leverage a program that we feel pretty high about.
“Last year we became a sponsor for their summer program called Atomic Blast. It was a summer technology, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)-based program so the kids don’t lose their skill set over the summer.”
Smith said they will get their IT people to program the tablets and get them ready for use as soon as possible.
“We are going to look at how to maximize their use,” Smith said. “Middle school is our targeted group.”
Smith couldn’t stress enough how important the donation from Ford was to the Boys & Girls Clubs.
“It is essential that we have friends like Ford that contribute to the program,” Smith said.
“This is like a lifeblood for us. We don’t have $60,000 laying around to go out and acquire this kind of equipment. This is huge. Ford gets it. They understand the need to help efforts like ours.”
Ford Motor Company sees the benefit of getting more boys and girls involved in math and the sciences at an early age, Reinhart said. They like what the Boys & Girls Clubs is doing to emphasize subjects like math and science, particularly during the summer.
“We sat and looked at it and said this is a great way to leverage a program we already see the value in,” Reinhart said. “Their programs align well with some of our priorities. They do it with hands-on activities. It is not all classroom activities. We really like that because they bring in a lot of people, like certified teachers for the summer. It is a good summer program.
“We want young people to know there are careers to be had in engineering, skill trades where people make things. Not everybody is going to grow up to be doctors and lawyers. There are good careers in science and math. We need people to make things and innovate and create new ideas and turn them into reality.”
Because of the investment Ford has made in the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City, there is a better chance that spark will happen.
“Ford is a long-term, great community partner in Kansas City,” Smith said. “This is indicative of that. We will use them for project creation (and) the science fair we have every year at the end of the summer.
“This provides more learning for the kids and fun.”
If you have a story you would like to see in Making a Difference, email David Boyce at Drive@ksctar.com