Flint, MI—When Tiffany Webb, a mother of two teenagers, arrived at The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Flint to pick up a care package, she didn’t expect to be handed a free laptop.

“I was like, ‘What? Are you serious? Is this a prank?’” Webb said.

She, along with 49 other families in need, come to The Boys and Girls Club of Flint each month for “Club At-Home Packages” stocked with board games, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, masks, and other items. But this month’s distribution included a special surprise: a Chromebook.

“This is such a blessing because we have been struggling especially since the pandemic. And I’ve been very sick with kidney failure and not able to afford a lot of things. I used to be a nurse and I’m just really down because I can’t work. So, to receive something like this is a big help,” Webb said.

The laptops were donated by The Loyalty Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit that aims to narrow the digital divide by getting technology into the hands of underserved youth. This is the second year they’ve partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Flint, a nonprofit that provides afterschool programs to 1,000 Flint-area youths.

Shervon Goss, 38 said was surpised to find out she would be going home with a new chromebook when she pulled up to the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Flint for a food pickup on Friday, Oct. 29 2021. Goss was happy to receive the gift as she said she has no computer at home. (Santiago Ochoa | Flint Beat)

This year, the foundation donated 100 Chromebooks. Fifty were distributed to families involved in the Club At-Home Program on Oct. 29. The remaining 50 will be doled out between youth members at the Club’s two locations on Averill Ave and Bristol Rd.

“We believe that technology is the great equalizer. All children, irrespective of race, gender, socioeconomic status, need to have access to technology, immediately,” David Neeman, founder and chairman of the Loyalty Foundation said. “When you open technology to someone, when you give them a computer, they have access to everything that we know about the known universe.”

Since the pandemic started, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Flint has been working to connect their members with technology.

“We did calls out to families asking, ‘Do you have the internet?’ So, we created a huge list from our membership,” CEO Tauzzari Robinson said, adding that the list helped identify which families were most in need of a laptop. “Of course, with the pandemic and virtual learning, and even now there is a little bit of uncertainty if schools are having to shut down and kids go virtual due to COVID cases, it’s such a need to get these devices into those families’ hands and into those kids’ hands.”

Amber Miller, director of programs and operations for the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Flint checks a name off a list after giving away a free Chromebook to one of 50 families who received them Friday, Oct. 29 2021. (Santiago Ochoa | Flint Beat)

For Webb and Shervon Goss, also a mother of two teenagers, this is the first laptop they’ll be able to keep at home.

Goss said her children attend New Standard Academy, and while they are provided with laptops, they must return them.

“They got to turn them back in. Hopefully, if they’re not broke,” Goss said.

Neeman said next stops involve training the youth how to use their computers through Gaming4Good, a program that teaches them to create games on the popular digital platform Roblox Studio.

“If you can learn how to code, you can build yourself a future. A very lucrative future. It doesn’t matter where you are. So, access to technology opens, many, many doors,” Neeman said.

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...