Kitsap Computing Seniors celebrates 20 years

Kitsap Computing Seniors will be celebrating its 20th anniversary with a community event from 10 a.m. to noon March 19 at the Silverdale Community Center. Above, club members learn about digital photography editing.  - Kristin Okinaka
Kitsap Computing Seniors will be celebrating its 20th anniversary with a community event from 10 a.m. to noon March 19 at the Silverdale Community Center. Above, club members learn about digital photography editing.
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka

Ward Hinrichs didn’t know how to turn a computer on before taking a class. Now, the 78-year-old is uploading digital photos onto his computer and uses video conferencing technology to communicate with his children.

“When our grandkids started using computers, we knew we were behind,” Hinrichs said of his and his wife’s computer training.

Hinrichs said it was his children that encouraged him and his wife to become computer literate. Before taking computer classes with Kitsap Computing Seniors 15 years ago, he said they knew “nothing” about the electronic devices. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to learn at first.

Now he doesn’t know what he would do without computers.

“It’s just knowledge. Everybody wants knowledge,” he said.

Kitsap Computing Seniors, a nonprofit that provides a range of computer skills and software classes, will be celebrating its 20th anniversary. The club will have an anniversary event from 10 a.m. to noon March 19 for its members as well as the community at the Silverdale Community Center.

Founded in early 1992, the nonprofit started out with about 30 people and now has about 250 members. Any given week, there is always some type of computer class offered for seniors from three classes a week to about six classes a week, ranging from mousing basics to Macintosh navigation and PowerPoint and Excel spreadsheet classes. A Board of Trustees governs the club and elects officers. Kitsap Computing Seniors is chartered as an educational organization and has monthly general meetings and board meetings.

Larry DuSavage, president of the club who also teaches some of the classes, said there is no age restriction to be part of the group but the age range is from 62 to 92 years. They don’t turn anyone away, he said.

People pay a $20 membership fee a year, which is good for participating in any of the classes offered. Kitsap Regional Library, Kitsap County and the Bremerton School District offers the club free work space and computers to use at the Sylvan Way Library, Silverdale Community Center and Mountain View Middle School. While some classes have a waiting list, DuSavage said there is also one-on-one computer help available.

Although some seniors may be apprehensive to learn even the basics of computers, DuSavage said that Kitsap Computing Seniors is a good place to start.

“We know it’s hard to teach an 80-year-old who has never touched a computer in his life,” said DuSavage, 67.

DuSavage became computer savvy while in the Navy for 20 years, earning a degree in computer science while serving. With the advancement of technology, using other devices such as cellphones and navigating the cable TV menu can be a challenge for those who do not have basic computer skills, he said.

While some people like Hinrichs and his wife, a retired pediatrician and elementary school teacher, joined the club to learn basic computing skills, others come to master a specific program or skill such as instant messaging, Facebook, or Internet navigation.

For 69-year-old Diana Shadley, it was learning how to edit her digital photos. She attended a class at the end of January to learn how to use Paint.NET, a free software for digital photo editing.

An avid nature photographer, Shadley wanted to learn how to remove some of the distracting objects that appear is many of her scenic digital photos.

“I’m interested in taking telephone poles out,” she said.

Don Brown, 78, has been part of the club since its inception. Having been exposed to computers while working at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in the mid-1980s, Brown said he wanted to expand from the basics.

Like Shadley who wants to learn more about digital photography editing, Brown suggests people seek out something specific with computers they want to tackle, otherwise it may become overwhelming.

“Find a project you want to do and learn what you have to do to do it,” he said.

Besides the technical skills the club provides for seniors, Kitsap Computing Seniors also has a program, New Horizons, which refurbishes computers and donates them to those in the community that are of low-income or disabled. New Horizons started in 2007 and the program is always accepting computer donations, said DuSavage. Recently, through New Horizons, the club was able to donate a computer and printer to a local seventh grade student who has lived in public housing neighborhoods her entire life.

While the club continues to grow, so will many of its members’ technical expertise and desire to share it with others.

Hinrichs said he purchased an iPad last year and plans on getting a smartphone soon.

“KCS has really filled the gap,” he said.


Kitsap Computing Seniors

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