Edgewood youth center gets federal money for computers

Other funds will go toward mobile social services unit, firefighting equipment

January 26, 2003|By Lane Harvey Brown | Lane Harvey Brown,SUN STAFF

Harford County's outreach to moderate- and low-income families in Edgewood got a boost last week after federal funding was approved for new computers at a youth center and a mobile policing and community services vehicle, county officials said.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Harford County's Edgewood center is to receive about $218,475 for its computer lab, and $131,085 is earmarked for a mobile unit that can take community services into the community, said Beth Sansone, the county's community development manager.

The unit, which resembles a recreation vehicle, will have a sheriff's deputy onboard consistently, and rotate other county services through the week, Sansone said. For instance, a health nurse might offer inoculations one day, while nonprofit groups might offer child-abuse prevention and outreach other days.

"This just allows us, particularly in Edgewood, to combine policing with all the different human services agencies, Sansone said. "We're just bringing them directly to the neighborhood."

Donald Mathis, executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Harford County, said the money would help narrow the "digital divide" communities like Edgewood face by replacing 10 computers, providing software and enhancing a robotics program used by the club's members.

The club serves 800 members in the community, and another 1,000 youths come into the center for events, Mathis said. "A lot of these kids don't have computers at home and don't have access to the Internet," he said.

A Lego-based robotics system, which allows children to build robots and program them using computer software, is also to receive some funding. Mathis said these kinds of learning programs allow his members "to take off and really shine because this is learning that's really fun."

The county applied for the Economic Development Initiative funds from HUD through Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat who is scheduled to visit Edgewood tomorrow to watch club members at work.

"When County Executive [James] Harkins told me about these community programs - the Boys and Girls Clubs technology center and the mobile policing in Edgewood - I said, `This can really make a difference for Harford families,'" Mikulski said.

"Access to technology is so important to give our children the tools they need to succeed in the 21st century," she said. "Families need to know their neighborhoods are safe. That's why I fought to put money in the federal checkbook for these community projects."

Mikulski also plans to stop at Level Volunteer Fire Company, which separately applied for and received a little more than $141,322 to purchase 32 self-contained breathing apparatus units, replacing its aging stock at one time, instead of a few units here and there.

Fire company officials could not be reached for comment, but Merrie Street, county spokeswoman, said, "This is the first time they've received a [Federal Emergency Management Agency] grant, and they're very happy. In the past they just had to do everything piecemeal."

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