AMBUCS is a national service organization composed of a diverse group of men and women dedicated to creating independence and opportunities for people with disabilities. There are 5,600 members currently in AMBUCS in 15 states across the country.
The Sooner chapter of AMBUCS in Norman, Oklahoma, had been engaging in a community service project when they met Linda Durbin. Durbin was a busy mother and active in her community when she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1986. She has been confined to a wheelchair for many years but has not let the disease stop her from helping others.
Durbin learned about computers using Commodore systems. In 1995, a foundation gave her an IBM 286 computer. Her experience with that system was so positive that she decided to help others with disabilities obtain similar computers.
One of her early computers was given away to a five-year-old child with cancer. The look on the child’s face and the joy it brought to him was all that was needed to confirm to her that this is the work she wanted to do. Over several years, Durbin was able to give away more than 70 computers. She was hampered, however, by her lack of affiliation with a 501(c)(3) organization and her inability to provide tax receipts for donations. Enter the Sooner AMBUCS.
The Sooner AMBUCS met Durbin in late 1997 and surmised that her experience and contracts combined with their energy, resources and tax status, it was a “marriage made in heaven.” In 1998, they formed the ASK Project. Computers range from old Tandy machines to Pentium level systems. The very old machines can be fixed up and used by Head Start programs. They provide 286 level systems to Learning Disability labs in area schools. They also provide systems to children with disabilities to use at home. Machines with 386 and 486 processors go to individuals who need more capacity for schoolwork, record keeping, communication and sometimes home-based businesses. The Pentium level machines go to those who need voice recognition software.
Computers come from individuals, small and large businesses, and government agencies. Durbin and one of her relatives handle every system, building systems using donated components, making small repairs, and setting them up to match specific recipients’ needs and abilities. Other chapter members pick up systems, handle paperwork and storage, make small repairs and match up components for distribution. Financially, it is a very low-cost project, with primary expenses being the trailer rental ($100 per month) and most repair parts are taken from non-repairable systems.
Yet, the computers have brought so much joy to many. One mother said that her 15-year-old son, who was paralyzed from the waist down, was thrilled and could not wait to get home and get his computer hooked up. Also, a grandmother with teenaged grandsons, who have to be indoors most of the time because were born without pores in their bodies, no hair or teeth, and cannot handle cold or heat, use their computers as their lifelines to the world. They got matching computers for Christmas through the ASK Project.