In 2011, The Long Beach Gay and Lesbian Center has plans to become bigger and better.

    That movement already has begun with the renovation and grand reopening of the David Bohnett CyberCenter on Nov. 13.

    As part of The State of The Center event, the reopening unveiled eight updated computer workstations. The stations are equipped with Lenovo all-in-one A70z personal computers (PCs) with Microsoft Office software and a Windows Pro 7 widescreen monitor, said Ron Sylvester, chairman of The Center’s board of directors.

    “This renovated facility will help bridge the ‘digital divide’ by giving access to technologies and resources to those who may not have them,” Sylvester said. “More than 500 people use the CyberCenter each month — it’s one of our most used services.”

    In establishing more than 60 CyberCenters nationwide to date at community gay and lesbian centers, the David Bohnett Foundation’s goal is to provide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) centers with a wired hub for communication, according to Paul Moore, the foundation’s program manager. The foundation has been committed to improving society through social activism since it was founded in 1999.

    Moore said technology entrepreneur and philanthropist David Bohnett launched the CyberCenter program in the late 1990s. The first CyberCenter was at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. Moore said the CyberCenters were in demand because the LGBT community was in need of a safe place to network, communicate and explore education, career and recreation opportunities.

    “We revisit the centers every three to five years to ensure that computers are kept in state-of-the-art shape,” Moore said. “Not everyone has a computer or can afford the Internet access or the availability of a printer. Each location that we’ve established so far has between three and 15 computers. In 2010, we updated 24 LGBT CyberCenters at a cost of $500,000.”

    Prior to the grand reopening of Long Beach’s CyberCenter, Sylvester said only five of the eight computers were functioning. The Center’s CyberCenter opened in 2006, and this was its first update. Community members can walk in during The Center’s operating hours and use the Internet for free for a limited time period, Sylvester added.

    “Every time I walk in there, the CyberCenter is full,” Sylvester said. “People are doing job searches and researching (LGBT) issues. It’s great because people have a safe place if they feel uncomfortable looking up these topics in a public library.”

    The Center’s board of directors and staff focused on stabilizing the foundation of the organization in 2010 following a tough financial situation in 2009, Sylvester said. Money was raised through private donations, and The Center recruited many volunteers to keep operations going, he added.

    “In my eyes we’re still reconnecting to the community,” Sylvester said. “In 2011, we want to continue our great roster of events, and raise the importance of The Center in the community. I would love to see us be open on Saturdays … and have bigger, expanded programs (including) our youth program.”

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