Mesa Water District, IT firm donate computers to children’s charities impacted by pandemic

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Even amid a pandemic, opportunities exist. Take, for example, Mesa Water District, where employees found themselves transitioning in mid-March to a work-from-home model and looking for computers that could handle an increased virtual workload.

New equipment was procured, leaving the Costa Mesa utility with about 70 gently used desktop and laptop computers no longer of use. Thanks to some quick thinking on the part of T2 Tech Group, which provides IT services for the district, some new owners were quickly identified.

In late June, 40 desktop models were wiped of their data, sanitized, boxed up and sent to Children’s Bureau, a Los Angeles-area nonprofit that supports at-risk children and their parents. Another 30 laptops went to School on Wheels, which provides free tutoring and mentoring services for homeless children in six counties, including Orange County.


“The opportunity came to work with T2, and we jumped on it,” said Celeste Carrillo, spokeswoman for Mesa Water District, crediting the IT firm with identifying the recipient groups. “We put our heads together and said this is a chance to give these computers to someone who needs them more than we do.”

And, boy, were they needed.

School on Wheels Executive Director Charles Evans said homeless students have been particularly hard hit during the pandemic, as the shift toward distance learning has removed personal connections and made technology ownership essential.

“A lot of our students are already behind as it is,” Evans said. “When they don’t have access to a teacher or to resources, it makes it a lot easier for them to fall even further behind.”

Since shelter-in-place restrictions began, School on Wheels has had to find creative ways to rebuild its erstwhile in-person tutoring model into a virtual one. The organization is actively seeking funds and hardware to accommodate students living in and learning from motels, shelters and vehicles.

“We couldn’t do what we do if it weren’t for groups like T2 Tech giving us laptops that give kids access to educational tools,” Evans said. “That means we can give one more student access to a computer and a tutor.”

Kevin Torf, co-founder and managing partner of Torrance-based T2 Tech Group, said Mesa Water’s upgrade came precisely as nonprofits were looking for ways to provide services virtually and in need of some hardware.

“Right now, with COVID-19, kids don’t have that ability to be in front of teachers anymore, and they’re in these isolated environments. We asked Mesa Water if they’d be interested in donating the computers, and they said yes,” he said. “We’re very fortunate this all happened at the same time.”

Torf connected with School on Wheels, where wife Susan has served as a volunteer tutor, and learned the donated laptops would be put to good use by students and their families. The 40 desktops were a little harder to find a home for, so Torf searched for potential recipients and found Children’s Bureau.

The desktop units will be used by staff and volunteers who offer abuse prevention and resources to at-risk parents and children at 20 sites throughout Orange and Los Angeles counties.

“We deeply appreciate Mesa Water and T2 Tech Group’s partnership in preventing child abuse and neglect,” Children’s Bureau IT director Reinhardt Masicat said in a statement. “We are confident this generous gift will help us better protect vulnerable children by providing staff with the tools needed to help local families and communities thrive.”

Torf extended the same offer posed to Mesa Water District to anyone else looking to donate working technology to children in need.

“If anybody has got available computers, we’ll clean them, make sure they’re operational and find a place for them,” he said.

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