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Public-access computer center joins revival of former Linwood Presbyterian Church in Kansas City

Michael Liimatta, CEO and co-founder of Connecting for Good, showed programs on the computer to Lujean King of Grandview on Sunday during the grand opening of Connecting for Good’s Linwood Area Computer Center at 3201 Michigan Ave. in Kansas City.
Michael Liimatta, CEO and co-founder of Connecting for Good, showed programs on the computer to Lujean King of Grandview on Sunday during the grand opening of Connecting for Good’s Linwood Area Computer Center at 3201 Michigan Ave. in Kansas City. along@kcstar.com

At least 30 desktop computer monitors line the tables at a new, free public-access computer center that celebrated a grand opening Sunday at the former Linwood Presbyterian Church in Kansas City.

It was created by Connecting for Good, a nonprofit that has worked since 2011 to bridge the digital divide and bring email and the Internet to low-income people.

“It’s going to help out a lot, especially for people who don’t have any kind of computer skills at all,” said Richelle Phillips of Connecting for Good. “We teach them the basics here, and if they want the advanced class all they have to do is come.”

The new computer center at Linwood Boulevard and Bruce Watkins Drive replaces a smaller one at 31st Street and Troost Avenue. It officially opens Nov. 9 but was available for tours on Sunday.

Initial hours will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, but those may be expanded. People can use the computers to look for a job, construct their resume or just surf the net.

Basic computer skills classes will be offered from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays and Fridays. An advanced class will be offered from 1 to 3 p.m. Fridays. After taking a class, students may purchase a donated and refurbished desktop computer from Connecting for Good for $75 or a laptop, when available, for $150.

Officials are relying on fliers and word of mouth to spread news about the new computer center.

“It’s getting out there because I’ve been receiving lots of calls,” said Phillips, who was a student of the computer class herself and now runs another Connecting for Good computer center at 2006 N. Third St. in Kansas City, Kan.

Connecting for Good has taught about 4,000 people to use email and the Internet just this year, said co-founder and chief executive officer Michael Liimatta.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a quarter of Kansas City area residents don’t have Internet access at home and 42 percent of people who don’t use the Internet have annual household incomes of less than $25,000. Seventy percent of students in Kansas City Public Schools do not have Internet access at home.

The tour and open house of the computer center Sunday was part of the dedication of the Linwood Area Ministry Place (LAMP), a $10 million initiative in the works for more than 20 years. Occupying the former Linwood Presbyterian Church and Harold Thomas Center, LAMP houses social services and vocational programs as well as the computer lab.

The church closed in 1979 and sat vacant. The presbytery bought it back in the 1990s with the intent of creating LAMP.

In addition to the computer center, LAMP has created space for ReDiscover, which provides mental health and substance abuse services, the Front Porch Alliance, which offers a variety of programs, and the Future Leaders Outreach Network, which serves at-risk youths.

“I think there is a lot of excitement about what we’re doing here,” Liimatta said.

Matt Campbell: 816-234-4902, @MattCampbellKC

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