Christian Outreach opening internet center

Published 6:38 pm Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Isle of Wight Christian Outreach Program’s newest initiative will help students stay connected.

On Oct. 5, COP plans to open a virtual learning center in the organization’s building at 402 Grace St. in Smithfield for Isle of Wight high school students who need internet access. Access to the center is free. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The idea to open the virtual learning center developed in response to community need, said volunteer Rick Rowlands, who oversaw the technical aspects of setting up the room and the wi-fi. With a large number of students learning virtually this year, we realized “there’s got to be a need,” Rowlands said.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The center is a bring your own device setup — internet is provided but computers are not. The organization said it plans to offer space to about 12 to 15 people. Those who use the center will be required to wear masks, and they’ll be separated by dividers and follow social distancing protocols.

In order to further maintain everyone’s health and safety, people who use the center won’t have to walk through the building. They’ll use an entrance that’s just steps away from the room, and restrooms are across the hall.

Some Isle of Wight students and families have said they drive to public school campuses or local businesses and sit in their car to use the internet if access isn’t good at their home in order to complete their school work.

The center will also be staffed by adult volunteers to monitor the students. “I think this will be a very pleasant place to be instead of sitting in your car,” Rowlands said.

When the organization announced the internet center on Facebook, they quickly received positive feedback, said Cris Lawrence, COP’s administrative assistant. “I got a phone call from a gentleman who is having to work from home now and he said I can certainly come in and be one of your monitors and do my work at the same time. And that’s perfectly fine,” Lawrence said.

Christian Outreach Program also recently launched Food For Thought, a book distribution initiative.

“We’ve always done, for the past several years, book collection here and given books out to clients,” volunteer Kirstin Cook said. “But we’ve found since March, now that our clients are not coming into the building anymore, the books have been sitting on the shelves. Kids are home now, they’re not in school, many of them,” Cook said. “We just want to make sure that kids have books on their bookshelves and are spending time reading for enjoyment,” she said.

Clients who come to COP to receive a food pantry box may also receive books for ages birth through middle school. The books are free — there’s no expectation to return them like in a library setting, although if they want to bring them back, we’ll take them back, recycle them and redistribute them,” Cook said.

If you have books to donate, Cook said Christian Outreach will accept them between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday or Friday “and the greatest need we have are board books for babies. We don’t get many of those to give out and that’s so important that babies have books in their hands too.”

In the new normal, “We have to adapt,” said Lawrence. “This is our way of helping kids learn, to continue to learn even through a crisis like this.”

To schedule an opportunity at the internet center call 757-542-3602. If you’d like to serve as an adult monitor, call 757-356-9267.