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About Blacksburg Computer Empowerment

Blacksburg Computer Empowerment is an IRS 501(c)3 charity focused on using information technology to empower individuals who have experienced a mental health challenge. Contributions are tax-deductible. We are a peer-run organization, founded in May, 2009 and primarily serve the New River Valley of Virginia, USA.

The Vision of BCE is to help bring into being a world where people with mental health challenges are using their skills and tools to empower themselves and others, achieving a sense of community, efficacy, and shared esteem.

Computer Empowerment is an approach to mental health advocacy developed by Marcus Cowgill, Ph.D. and Terry Grimes, Ed.D. in early 2002 in Roanoke, Virginia. On its surface, Computer Empowerment resembles a computer training program whereby participants are given computer equipment and taught how to use the devices. On a more fundamental level, however, Computer Empowerment is a means of personal transformation, a realization of the potential each of us has to overcome great obstacles and live a meaningful and fulfilled existence.

As Wikipedia mentions, the term "empowerment" refers to increasing the spiritual, political, social or economic strength of individuals and communities. People with a psychiatric diagnosis--we use the term "mental people"--are in need of empowerment for a number of reasons:

  • Mental people are often poor, with many living on government disability payments.
  • Mental people often suffer from disabilities and social barriers that interfere with the acquisition of knowledge and education.
  • Mental people often face stigma and discrimination from broader society.
  • Living with a pervasive mental illness often challenges a person's essential coping skills. A mental life can seem bleak and pointless.

Computer Empowerment increases a mental person's empowerment through individualized, face-to-face, 1-on-1 computer empowerment sessions over a period of several weeks. The sessions continue until a level of computer mastery is achieved. In becoming empowered technologically, a mental person can gain feelings of competence and worth and can find new avenues of personal growth and social connection.

In computer empowerment we stress "mutuality." Mentor and participant learn from each other and they as a pair direct a path toward computer competence and capability, toward greater connectedness, knowledge and vitality.

Computer Empowerment is freely given, and participants are encouraged to
share their computer skills with others. Some become mentors themselves. Mentoring is great fun and richly rewarding. Interested in learning more? Please give us a call or email!

BCE Bylaws (pdf)
BCE Articles of Incorporation (pdf)
BCE IRS Form 990-N (png)

Director: Marcus Cowgill Ph.D.
Blacksburg Computer Empowerment
201 Fairfax Road #8
Blacksburg, VA 24060

ph. 540-449-1772