GALAX — Oakland Elementary students will benefit from the “pay it forward” legacy of two men, honored by the donation of a dozen Chromebooks on November 1. An informal presentation of the devices to Principal Larry Williams was made November 1 by Shirley Harmon Steele and Patricia Blankenheim, on behalf of their late husbands, Robert A. Steele and David E. Blankenheim.
Shirley Harmon Steele said she and her husband were both Carroll County natives who later came back and settled in the Woodlawn area. Robert retired after 20 years with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel from the United States Air Force and the couple lived for a time in the Washington D.C. area. She said work (which he could talk about) included communications satellites and helping with the design of Motorola’s earliest cellphones. Steele recalled sitting in their backyard and joking about his handiwork as they watched satellites in the night sky. She is a retired computer science teacher, which is another connection to the work.
Blankenheim said she and her husband David were active in community service and were entrepreneurs in South Florida for 40 years including mail order, construction, shipping and a disco. She recalled how he was “a human Google” and seemed to know everything, which made the one time she knew something he didn’t a special occasion.
The two became acquainted with the area as a “getaway” from Florida before retiring to Fancy Gap. Blankenheim said David did some regional research and the two “fell in love” with the area. She said he loved hunting and his dogs. She pointed out both men shared an interest in learning and both were strong supporters of education.
“These two were very quiet men but they would do anything for you,” said said Carroll County School Board Chairman Brian Spencer.
Spencer said the donation was made possible by an informal gathering of friends who met regularly. He said the group had a dinner and an auction of personal items from home. All proceeds were to go to charity and he suggested Oakland.
“It’s heartwarming to know there are folks who care,” said Principal Larry Williams. “We are so grateful. We’ll take any donations we can. It’s tough times (for education in general).”
He said the additional books will help an ongoing effort to extend needed technology to students in lower grade levels.
He said the Chromebooks had a lot of features which made them more attractive, noting they are easier to carry, durable, have the capability of storing programs so students don’t have to have Internet access. Also, teachers’ familiarity with the software through Google Classroom programs are already widely in use.
A Chromebook is a laptop which starts in a fraction of the time it takes to “boot” many older models of Windows-based computers. The most visible “native” software application on its screen is a web browser. It has the capability to store everything on the Internet’s “cloud.” Since most everything is saved on the Web, students have access from any computer. Should Chromebook break, users don’t lose all their software applications, documents and settings.
David Broyles may be reached at 276-79-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.