Jefferson Awards: David Sevick, Reaching out through recycling
Apr 15, 2012 (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Without knowing where the money would come from, Dave Sevick and his team of volunteers refurbished 105 computers last year to be donated to the Beverly Jewel Wall Lovelace Children's Program, a child-care support service located at 17 housing sites around Pittsburgh.
The computers provided teaching tools in reading, math, science, typing and history for young children in the program, as well as for staff support. But, there was still one problem: no funding.
That's when Google stepped in to provide a $36,000 grant. This collaboration between Google and Mr. Sevick's nonprofit, ComputeReach, was the most wonderful experience for the organization since its creation in 2001, Mr. Sevick said recently.
This wasn't the first time Mr. Sevick acted with his heart rather than his wallet. As of March 23, ComputeReach, a humanitarian computer outreach program, has refurbished 3,272 computers for reuse, donation or sale at a low cost.
Along with helping thousands of adults and children to learn and lead more productive lives, Mr. Sevick's vision keeps computers out of landfills.
For these efforts, Mr. Sevick, 52, of Cranberry, has been selected as a finalist for Most Outstanding Volunteer of the Year for the Jefferson Award for Public Service. These were chosen out of 48 Jefferson Award winners in 2011. The outstanding volunteer will be announced April 19 at a ceremony in the music hall of the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History. The winner will represent Western Pennsylvania at the national Jefferson Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., this summer.
WOMEN of Southwestern PA will donate $1,000 to Compute-Reach on Mr. Sevick's behalf.
The program is administered locally by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette with sponsorship by Highmark, BNY Mellon, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments.
"Dave does this from his heart. Other people do things for money. He deserves this award," said longtime friend, Milana "Mim" Bizic, who nominated Mr. Sevick.
Ms. Bizic, 70, a retired librarian at Edgeworth Elementary School in the Quaker Valley School District, met Mr. Sevick while his daughters were students there.
When the computers at the school needed attention, Mr. Sevick was always there to help, she said. "As a parent volunteer, I helped to troubleshoot the school computers," said Mr. Sevick, who credits Ms. Bizic and others in the community with helping him to transition from nursing to computer consulting.
In the beginning, Mr. Sevick had a vision of refurbishing computers in his garage -- of all places. His first project came along when he and his volunteers, received discarded computers from North Allegheny School District teachers.
When the computers were fixed, his team donated them to local homeless shelters and food banks on the North Side. Branching out further, the group provided low-cost computers for distribution twice a week to food banks in Butler County.
"Dave is a visionary about what to do with computers from Goodwill. He enables these kids and adults to find jobs. He turned on the power switch for the less fortunate enabling them to search and learn on their own," Ms. Bizic said.
Now, ComputeReach has more than 160 volunteers, including Google software engineers, computer nerds, retired teachers and students. While the mission primarily serves Pittsburgh, its computers have been sent to hurricane-ravaged areas of Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, as well as impoverished communities in Malaysia, Africa, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
"He is really good about partnering with everybody," Ms. Bizic said. "He makes volunteers feel important. He engages others with his gentle leadership style, and it always ends with successful projects."
Mr. Sevick and team members also volunteer at Goodwill from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Friday to help recycle and fix computers there.
Mr. Sevick, who is retired, is a former operating room nurse at Children's Hospital, where he worked until 1999. His daughters are grown. The development and growth of ComputeReach would not have been possible without the support of Mr. Sevick's mentor, the Rev. Larry Homitsky, pastor of Calvary United Methodist Church on the North Side.
The Rev. Homitsky facilitated a process that allowed ComputeReach to operate as a nonprofit 501(c)3 under the auspices of the Methodist Church. After about a year, it became a nonreligious charity.
"David has been the primary visionary, and I've had the opportunity to help give form and shape to the dream," said the Rev. Homitsky, 72.
Now, ComputeReach operates in a warehouse at Construction Junction in North Point Breeze. The 2,000-square-foot warehouse allows the team enough space to refurbish and pack the computers for shipping.
"Truly, the award honors over 160 people who have helped build the foundation of the idea of ComputeReach," Mr. Sevick said.
To read more about the nonprofit, go to http://computereach.com.
Tomorrow: Moscow Mule.
Amanda King: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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