Illinois Department of Commerce’s Grant Helps Continue Program in Chicago-area Cafés
A fourth grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce will help continue provide inexpensive computer classes to Mather’s–More Than a Café customers throughout Chicago. Since receiving its first Digital Divide grant in 2004 from the Illinois Department of Commerce, Mather’s staff members have provided computer training to more than 2,500 older adults at its neighborhood cafés.
“Thanks to the State of Illinois, we are making it very easy and affordable for Mather’s customers to learn how to use a computer,” said Betsie Sassen, Executive Director of Mather’s Café Development. “We are offering four levels of regularly priced $50 classes for just $10.”
Mather’s-More Than a Café is a full-service restaurant that offers programs and wellness classes to active, older adults. The three Chicago-area locations are on 7134 W. Higgins Ave., 3235 N. Central Ave. and 33 E. 83rd St.
Mather’s computer classes allow participants to learn the basics, such as word processing and working with web browsers, and advanced techniques ranging from maintaining a social media profile to developing a website. Classes are two hours each and are offered once a week.
Sassen said the need for training is growing, especially as more of her customers express interest to become computer-savvy. According to digital intelligence company eMarketer, older adults are adopting computer skills at a fast rate. Nearly 47 percent of older adults aged 50 to 64 actively maintain a profile on the social web, compared to 15 percent in 2008.
Beedie Jones, Café Manager of the Mather’s on 83rd Street location, said many of her customers wanted to learn and join their computer-savvy friends, but they hadn’t found the right time or place.
“Our training staff consistently encourages students to have a great time, while pointing out everything they can do on the computer and on the web,” she said.
In 2004, the State of Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity awarded Mather’s—More Than a Café funding to “Bridge the Digital Divide,” which reduced computer class fees for Levels 1–4 to $10 per level. The program will continue until funds are depleted. At that point, the cafés will return to regular fee schedules for customers and Mather Advantage Discount participants, which is the café’s priority class and event registration program.