Tuesday, August 14, 2001

Computer lab avails residents

Center honored for contributions

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — For Joyce Welch, the year-old computer lab at the Gardens Center has helped the single mother build her resume and breeze through homework from business college.

        Her five children have used the center's six computers for researching and writing school papers to composing song lyrics.

        “It keeps the rowdier part of them busy,” the 31-year-old mother said as she sat at a computer terminal last week. “And they're learning a lot, too.”

        Because of the niche the computer lab has filled in the community, Kentucky's office for the Department of Housing and Urban Development recently named the Gardens Center the 2001 Neighborhood Networks Computerized Learning Center of the Year.

        Greenup Gardens Center was among 29 neighborhood network centers vying for the recognition, said Janice Page, neighborhood network coordinator at HUD's Louisville office.

        It also is the first Northern Kentucky recipient of the 5-year-old award.

        “We feel like they've succeeded in their goals,” Ms. Page said. “They're providing something beneficial through their outreach to the families of the Gardens of Greenup and the community.”

        Run by the Covington-based Welcome House social service agency, the Gardens Center is part of a larger program that encourages low-income families to become self-sufficient.

        In 1996, Welcome House opened the Gardens at Greenup — 20 federally subsidized apart ments in two renovated buildings in the 1100 block of Greenup Street. Besides providing permanent housing at an affordable price, the program helps clients achieve self-sufficiency through on-site staff and support services such as the computer lab, said Linda Young, executive director of Welcome House.

        “The kids love it,” Ms. Young said of the computer lab. “It gives them access to the Internet that they wouldn't normally have, and it helps them become computer literate.”

        Support services are housed in the Gardens Center, a renovated Civil War-era building across the street from the apartments. The abandoned Gardens Center building received the 2000 Friends of Covington Beautification Award soon after its opening.

        Besides the computer lab, the Gardens Center houses a daycare on the first floor where the ceiling and floors were once falling apart, said Bev Merrill, pro gram coordinator. Upstairs in a large, airy room that once was a bar, the community room receives regular use by educators, support groups and community organizations.

        Ms. Young said most of the 64 tenants of the Gardens at Greenup have used the computer lab on a regular basis since it opened.

        Brittany Manning, 15, who will be a sophomore at Holmes High School this fall, has written papers for English class with the help of the computer lab. She also uses the computers to play games and chat with friends online.

        Brandy Seale, 11, used the computer lab to write an essay for First District Elementary's Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.

        “I'm there nearly every day through the week,” Brandy said. “My mom uses it to do her homework for college.”


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