BRADENTON — Although Carl Reynolds may not have a plush white beard and a robust belly, he does have the same altruistic tendencies as Santa Claus.
“I feel kinda like Santa Claus,” he said.
After the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to shut down nationwide, Reynolds decided to donate Google Chromebook computers to any student in need.
He was inspired to start the movement “#EducationalLaptops” after noticing that his four children were struggling with the online transition, despite having two computers available at home.
“It’s been a very heartwarming experience,” Reynolds said. “We get a lot of people sharing their stories about how they’re struggling. They live in a one-bedroom apartment with four people, they just got laid off being a server and there’s no way for them to, to hardly make ends meet, so they had no idea how’d they have a computer for their kids to learn on for school.”
Reynolds has donated a total of 350 computers so far, with another 70 on backorder.
“There’s such a high demand, low supply,” Reynolds said. “The supply chain has been interrupted because many of the parts come from overseas, China.”
Tiffany Lazo, a mother of four, received one of the 350 computers distributed. She has a 4-year-old, 7-year-old, 11-year-old, and 16-year-old at home now. She said she never received training to become a full-time teacher overnight.
“You’re looking at a full day of work, of reading, going through the schoolwork, trying to find it, trying to print it, trying to complete it, trying to scan it. I mean it’s nuts,” Lazo said.
Lazo believes this computer is a lifesaver, as it will allow her family to spend more quality time together.
“It’ll give us more time,” Lazo said. “More time together, where we aren’t having to spend so many hours with each student. You know they can all kinda be working at the same time for the most part, um, and accomplishing it and being done, hopefully by dinner time, so we can sit together again.”
Another mother who received a laptop is Antoinette Goggins. She picked up a computer for her daughter, Heaven, but the other four children at home will be using it too.
“We want to definitely make sure that she keeps up with her schoolwork and unfortunately she’s not able to do that because we don’t have a laptop,” Goggins said.
Despite the laptop request portal becoming dormant now, Reynolds hopes that more businesses reach out to contribute financially.
The first business partners were: Bowes Imaging Center (BIC), Progressive Cabinetry and American Car Care Center. These three businesses helped purchase the first batch of computers.
After an overwhelming demand for laptops, more businesses decided to contribute to this cause. Now, Marcus & Company Realty, HomeBridge Financial Services, Hide-Away Storage Made Easy! and Bruce Williams Homes have offered their financial assistance.
“But, only enough to buy 10 to 20 laptops,” Reynolds said. “I don’t want to open the portal up and fill those spots up within minutes, I would rather have enough to buy another 100 or so.”
Reynolds wants to ensure that he has secured enough funding to supply more computers and he does not want to run the risk of overpromising to Bradenton families. To buy another one hundred laptops, it would require an average of $16,000.
Reynolds hopes more businesses will donate so that they can collectively help families in the community.
To check the status of the request portal, people can log on to the injuriesarepersonal.com website and click on the “Educational Laptops” tab.
Before handing over the computer, Reynolds gives each student some advice.
“First of all, they’ve got to listen to mom and dad. Second of all, they have got to study hard, and third, they have got to do their chores,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds hopes his acts of service can continue to provide some temporary relief to these families.