Seaside nonprofit refurbishes used computers for low-income locals.

Computer Aid: Christian Mendelsohn, who repairs computers for the needy behind Home Depot in Seaside, is seeking the community’s help for Loaves, Fishes & Computers’ operating expenses.

Christian Mendelsohn’s nonprofit organization Loaves, Fishes & Computers opened in April 2009 with the aspiration to repair and refurbish old computers for low-income families in Monterey County. The idea came after a neighbor gave him an old unwanted computer.

“I knew a child up north who needed one, so I decided to fix it up and give it to him,” Mendelsohn says. “I knew he’d never had one, and it felt good to help out.”

Loaves, Fishes & Computers (www.loavesfishescomputers.org), the only Microsoft-approved refurbisher in Monterey County, sells computers on a four-tier system based on income and number of household residents, sometimes for as low as $40. Families who can’t afford even that may volunteer six hours doing local community service in exchange for a free computer.

Over the last 14 months, Mendelsohn and a group of volunteers have fixed up almost 30 computers – many donated – for local families, with equipment that could have ended up stuffing landfills or gathering dust in garages.

Marina artist Kevin Michaels was earning next to nothing when he heard about the program, but he ended up owning a laptop in a little over a month.

“I’m able to communicate with my family in other states and am able to get my work out there easier,” he says. “In thanks, I painted the ‘Feeding of 5000’ Bible scene for their offices, with Jesus giving out laptops.”

Due to funding issues, Loaves, Fish & Computers recently began struggling to keep its doors open. Fortunately, Heald College has made a large equipment donation to help keep the program alive.

“There’s no other service like this around the area,” Mendelsohn says. “In these times, there’s really a need.”

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