Instead of going to a crowded Starbucks or having a time limit at a local library, Bell Gardens residents will now be able to work on homework assignments or apply for jobs at a free computer lab that opened this week in the southeast city.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Centro de Computadoras Abre en Bell Gardens 
The computer lab is at Touchpoint Church, located on 6100 Florence Ave in Bell Gardens, and is open to the public on Mondays and Thursdays from 5p.m. to 8 p.m. Touchpoint Church Pastor Richard Jarman collaborated with Cesar Zaldivar-Motts from The Southeast Community Development Corporation to fund the community computer center.
“There’s nothing like this in this neighborhood and there’s a need,” Jarman told EGP. “We have a lot of people in this area that don’t have reliable Internet.”
The lab currently features six computers with Microsoft Word, free printing, free Wi-Fi and a study room. Zaldivar told EGP that the non-profit organization, which promotes economic development in southeast communities, has a proposal out seeking funding for more computers.
Students and job seekers who would like to use the lab will only be required to sign in at the door to use the facility. There is no age limit, but as a precaution, the computers contain parental control settings to ensure they are appropriately used.
“It’s a safe and clean place to study and use the Internet,” Zaldivar said.
Volunteers like Mercedes Castro-Miller will also monitor the room and be available to help users. She told EGP that community members hoping to use to facility should not be intimidated by the location of the lab.
“Just because they come here doesn’t mean they will be bombarded with church,” Castro said. “It’s a nice place to come and know that you are going to be offered resources regardless of where you are at in life.”
The use of the lab will be limited to schoolwork and for the purpose of finding employment. Although there is no official time limit, if people are waiting, users may be asked to limit their time on the computer. Jarman told EGP that if the demand continues, he hopes to eventually open the lab five days a week.
“As we expand, we hope to have enough space for everybody,” he said.
Jarman’s wife Jennifer came up with the idea of hosting a computer lab at the church when she saw the need in the community.
“One Sunday I happened to stop by at Starbucks and it was packed with people trying to finish their schoolwork, trying to get Internet access,” Jarman said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony held on Monday for the new facility. “I thought, why can’t we do this and people don’t have to worry about money for their coffee.”
Touchpoint Church purchased three of the computers; the other three were donated. The Southeast Community Development Corporation will be providing the technical support, which will be funded by a California Public Utilities Grant.
“If we can help a kid graduate, if we can help somebody get a job because they were able to get on a job board and post their resume, then that’s what we want to do,” said Jarman.
The church is accepting donations of computers that are three or fewer years old.
For more information about the lab or how to donate contact Touchpoint Church at (562) 927-1722. For more information about the Southeast Community Development Corporation, visit scdcorp.org.