Person of the Week: Mark Dibner

June 26, 2009 2:19:33 PM PDT
A grassroots group in the Triangle is helping bridge the digital divide by donated computers to children who can't afford to have one in their home.Mark Dibner is a successful business and entrepreneur who is responsible for the project.

According to the Eyewitness News viewer who nominated Dibner, he works tirelessly on the project -- even using a lot of his own money.

Every Wednesday night in the RTP, 45 people get together at the Kramden Institute to refurbish computers.

"We have a great staff of what we call our geeks," Dibner explained. "We've had over 2,000 people volunteer with us, since we started in 2003."

Dibner created Kramden with his son Ned. Kramden is Ned and Mark spelled backwards.

In 2003, they rebuilt a computer in their basement and Ned had an idea.

"He turned to me and said, 'Dad, there are a whole bunch of kids at in my school who can't afford computers. Can we build a few more?' Not knowing how we were going to do it."

Six years later, they have managed to do it because so many people have donated used computers.

At the Kramden office, you can see all of the donated computer monitors and towers.

Dibern said some of the donations came from one of the company's largest donors -- LabCorp.

"And Lenovo and SAS and Cisco and Ibm and other companies have given us computers, given us technology," he added.

Over the past six years, Kramden has donated 4,500 refurbished computers to local school children.

"There are only two criteria, they have to show they work hard in school, and they have to not have another computer in their home," Dibner said.

The children are picked by their teachers. Dibner said it's heartwarming to see their recation.

"To see the look in their eyes when they pick up the computer and realize it's totally free and they can take it home and it can be theirs, and they'll be getting on the Internet shortly - it's just an amazing thing," Dibner said.

Some of Dibner's volunteers are students.

Zack Green attends the NC School of Science and Math, and he is volunteering at Kramden this summer.

"I think mark is just a really generous guy, and I think that's why he created this and it's good to see people like that," Green told Eyewitness News. "It's a really rewarding experience for me to be here helping out under privileged students, it's better than just sitting at home."

The bulletin board at Kramden is filled with touching thank you letters reminding Dibner why he and his son started the project.

"We get a lot of feedback from the kids that they're doing better in school, they're able to do assignments they weren't able to do before, they're exploring more," Dibner said. "When they come back and tell us how it's affected their life, it's just so warming.

Dibner says tens of thousands of North Carolina children could use computers and Kramden could help them, if they had more money.

It costs $65 to refurbish each computer.

Dibner hopes to create a national model that can be used everywhere.

To learn more about Kramden and to make a doncation, log on to www.kramden.org/donate.

To nominate a person of the week, go to: http://abclocal.go.com/wtvd/feature?section=resources/inside_station&id=6720752


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