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Local companies form nonprofit to get students the technology they need to succeed.
By PAMELA GOULD
When retired Marine captain and current defense contractor Tony Seals was looking for a way to give back to the community, he analyzed how other outreach groups operate.
What he found was that many organizations donate money and resources to people in need. And while that helps, he viewed those gifts as having a short-term effect.
"I wanted to find a a way to make a solution-oriented impact," said Seals, who owns Cortek Inc. in Spotsylvania County's Courthouse area.
He looked for a way to help people before their options in life become limited. What he and a handful of partners realized was that today's youths need tools that will equip them for success now and into the future.
As a result, they formed a nonprofit known as Educational Technology Empowering Kids--or ETEK for short--which provides youths with laptops and software.
ETEK gave away 50 laptops in December and held the second giveaway of 40 laptops on Sunday at Loriella Park in Spotsylvania.
The latest recipients were seventh-graders or older from Spotsylvania, Stafford and King George counties and Fredericksburg.
They were selected by the Rappahannock Area Council for Children and Parents. The first group of recipients was chosen by Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters.
"I'm in heaven," 10th-grader Chase Strader said after receiving his laptop.
Chase was one of three siblings in the Stafford family to receive laptops.
Their mother was in disbelief over the gift.
"You've got to be kidding me," Kim Strader said after she got the call. "They've never had a laptop."
"Too much money," ninth-grader Jenson Strader said.
But seventh-grader Breanna Strader beamed.
"It will help a lot in our schoolwork," she said.
Now the family can get homework assignments online if anyone forgets to bring them home, Kim Strader noted.
And that's in keeping with what RACCAP Executive Director Kelly Padgett told the students after the laptops were distributed.
"Students, your mission when you received those laptops was to do your best," he said.
Padgett expects the laptop giveaway to offer long-term benefits.
"It's one of those events that go by in a matter of seconds, but it makes a lifetime of difference," he said.
Several area businesses partnered with ETEK for giveaway. The Dell laptops donated by Cortek had been used by Seals' employees. They were wiped clean and then installed with Microsoft software, said Brenda Chemelewski, an ETEK board member.
Bill Osborne, owner of Stafford-based Go PC, donated his time and expertise, checking out every laptop and its software to be sure each was in working order.
Several local businesses provided food and other items for Sunday's event.
Cardinal Bank Executive Vice President Todd Hewitt surprised Seals by presenting ETEK with a $1,000 donation.
"We'd like to see it continue to grow," Seals said of the nonprofit's program. "The issue is what do the kids need to stay competitive."
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972
For more information on ETEK and to participate in the organization's efforts to support youths in the Fredericksburg region: etekcares.org or laptops4kids.org.