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Rex Fuller | Out Front & Center

Shawan Turner is the welcoming face of The GLBT Community Center. Every day, she greets people from all walks of life and coordinates the many volunteers who make The Center’s front desk run smoothly. As she and her volunteers are fielding calls and directing visitors to activities, she knows firsthand about the importance of the David Bohnett Cyber Center to The Center’s visitors.

“What if we didn’t have the Cyber Center? We’d be missing a lot of people coming in the door,” she says.

Up to 22 percent of The Center’s visitors come in daily to use the Cyber Center. Open weekdays from 10am to 8pm, people come in to access the internet and work on the computers free of charge. “All you need is a picture ID and you’re set to go,” Shawan assures visitors.

The Cyber Center was recently renovated with updated equipment intended to bridge the ‘digital divide’ for those without computer access. Ten terminals are available in the main area, while two others are installed in the Rainbow Alley space for LGBT youth to access at any time during drop-in hours. Visitors use the Cyber Center to create resumes and presentations, conduct research, search for jobs, and participate in other activities in a supportive environment.

The renovation was made possible by a series of grants to David Bohnett Cyber Centers across America. The “refresh” program began in 2004 to keep the Cyber Centers up to date. Every three to four years, each Cyber Center is supplied with brand new, state-of-the-art equipment. This year, the Foundation is funding refresh grants to 29 locations throughout the country.

There are currently a total of 60 active centers funded nationwide, including locations in Tulsa, Orlando, Salt Lake City, Dallas, Tucson, Seattle, San Francisco, L.A., and New York City. Each is equipped with five to ten computer stations loaded with a broad range of updated programs and software for business and personal computing. Computer access is always free and job-search training, best internet practices, and online security is readily available.

In establishing the Cyber Centers, tech entrepreneur and philanthropist David Bohnett’s vision was to provide LGBT communities with a “wired” hub through which its members could connect with each other and explore educational, professional, and recreational opportunities. Paul Moore, program officer for the Bohnett Foundation, said the Cyber Centers give LGBT people of all ages quality Internet access and provide a safe place to work and socialize.

Shawan experiences the impact of the Cyber Center on a personal level every day. “One time, a gentleman came in who was really stressed out because he wasn’t able to use the computer at the library where he’d been going,” she recalls. “Before he came in, he didn’t even know about the Cyber Center. He just came in looking for suggestions about where he could go to get online so he could send his resume out. He came here and was able to make connections with the people he needed to speak to and landed the job.” l

More information about the David Bohnett Cyber Center is available at GLBTColorado.org.