Computer Games 4 Fun, an organization founded earlier this year by Ridgway resident Bob Schloder, is seeking old computers that can be refurbished, filled with games, and given to area residents at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or those in similar situations as a means of mental stimulation. In recent months, Schloder has already provided computers for a few residents at Silver Creek Terrace and Elk Towers, both in St. Marys, and Ridgmont in Ridgway.
Schloder indicated that he first came up with the idea for Computer Games 4 Fun after hearing residents at facilities such as Silver Creek and Ridgmont remark that they had no one with whom they could play cards.
"I finally made a connection and thought, 'well, maybe we could give them something to do,'" Schloder said.
With the help of Karen Leithner, also of Ridgway, he began collecting used computers, cleaning them and erasing the hard drives.
"We triple-erase all the files inside and any reference at all to anybody that pre-owned the computer," Schloder said.
As his idea became a reality, Schloder talked to the Elk County Commissioners and they provided him with an office in the Ridgway Courthouse Annex building. He also noted that he received a lot of help from others along the way, with people showing him how to wipe the hard drives and perform other necessary tasks to get the computers ready to be distributed.
While Schloder now does most of the work wiping hard drives himself, he noted that he could still use some help if anyone is interested in volunteering.
"If anybody wants to volunteer to join the organization to help install and work on the computers, that would be fine. I could use some help," Schloder said.
Schloder is also seeking donations of computers, though it is necessary that the machines are compatible with Windows 98 or above.
"That's very important," Schloder said of making sure the computers have the right operating systems. "We were going to use older computers, but we found out the games were not compatible with them."
He is always seeking donations of computers that are in good working condition, and indicated that both laptops and desktops are acceptable. Once the files are removed from the machines, they are provided to individuals at no cost.
"We get them for free, we give them for free," Schloder said.
He added that it typically takes between four and five hours to completely clear all of the unnecessary information. Once he is finished, the only thing that the computers can be used for is to play games.
"The only thing that's left on there is games, because otherwise it would be complicated. They'd have to have internet service. You'd have to pay for that function. This way, it's just a computer but all you do is play games on it. It's just a computer with games. There's no other software on it," Schloder said.
The point, Schloder said, is to make it as simple as possible for the user.
"It boots right to the game screen, right to the main page, and what's on the main page is icons. It's all icon drive. They just double-click a game and go in and play it," Schloder said.
He also noted that the majority of the games are card-based.
"At some point in time if I can get a connection, I would like to get more games to put on, but it's not easy to find free games. If someone has a connection in order to get me free games I can put on, [that would be appreciated]," Schloder said.
Individuals interested in donating a computer to Computer Games 4 Fun, volunteering to help with the organization, or who would like to request a computer, can contact the organization at 594-9556.