FOLLANSBEE - Area residents will have free use of computers to conduct online job searches, research for school papers and perform other tasks, thanks to a partnership between the Follansbee Fire Department and a nonprofit Franklin, W.Va., organization.
The department is among about 60 West Virginia fire departments that are receiving computers through a $4.4 million grant from the federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program secured by the Future Generations Graduate School.
Through the program, the Follansbee Fire Department has received 10 computer stations that may be used by the public during designated hours as well as the department's volunteer firefighters for online training required for their certification.
An open house for the computer center will be held at the fire station from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday. Anyone unable to attend but interested in learning more may call (304) 527-1330, (304) 914-8636 or Future Generations' toll-free number, (877) 358-2484.
Located in the fire station's lounge at the rear of the building, the center will be available to the public from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sundays, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
"You don't have to be from Follansbee to use it. Anybody can use it," said Karla Kafton, an administrative assistant at the Follansbee City Building who with city fire Chief Larry Rea, underwent training to assist the public with the computers.
Their training and pay through February is funded by the same grant.
"After that, it will be up to the fire department whether they keep it open or not," Kafton said.
But the fire department may keep the computers for their training and recordkeeping.
Kafton envisions students using the computers to do their homework and senior citizens learning basic computer skills with them. She added the morning hours were set with older residents in mind.
Through its website, Future Generations offers noncredit courses on various computer applications, preparation for fire and emergency medical service training and examinations, preparation for the GED exam and other topics, as well as resources for students from the elementary level up and educational games.
The Future Generations Graduate School is a nonprofit international school that offers a two-year master's degree in applied community change.
The center's visitors must agree not to use the computers for improper purposes and will follow a log-in procedure that would identify anyone who attempted to tamper with the equipment.
The Wellsburg Fire Department established a computer lab at its station in August through the same grant. For information about it, call (304) 737-0313.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)