A classroom full of Hewlett-Packard volunteers divided into groups Friday morning at Ida Burns Elementary to help teachers and administrators, while another group installed software on 30 new laptop computers the company donated to the school.

Donna Wilchie, school counselor, said she met Valerie Lane, site program manager of the HP Conway Customer Contact Center, when HP volunteered at summer feeding programs in the Pine Street neighborhood.

"At the end of the summer," Wilchie said, "she mentioned this grant and encouraged me to apply for it." So, Wilchie submitted the information to finalize the grant application process.

Through the HP-Adopt-a-School grant program, Ida Burns Elementary received 30 HP ProBook 4540s laptops.

More than 50 HP Conway employees contributed toward the grant funding while 42 HP Conway employees spent their time volunteering at the school.

Each classroom will now have four computers and one laptop, Wilchie said.

"When students are in small groups the teachers use laptops for educational games that improve math and reading skills," she said.

Some of the upper grades will use the laptops for research and presentations, and one of the laptops will be used in the library for a new system of checking out books.

Randy Riddle is the Conway Public Schools computer technician who will be in charge of routine maintenance for the new laptops.

He said the school system is phasing out older computers that don’t support the new Windows 7 software, and the grant from HP will be 30 less computers they will have to replace.

"There’s no way we can purchase new computers for all 18 schools," he said.

A program called System Center and Configuration manager performs automatic updates and keeps the machines running, but Riddle is there to fix any hardware problems that may occur throughout the year.

The grant is a joint effort funded by HP employees and the HP foundation that requires a volunteer project to accompany the equipment, Lane said.

Part of the grant ensured HP employees would come to the school to get the new laptops up and running.

"We’re here to unbox them, plug in the ethernet, take them to each teacher and make sure they work the way they’re supposed to," said Brian Townsend, HP account manager.

HP encourages volunteerism in the community by offering employees four hours a month of paid time off for volunteer opportunities.

"More than 70 years ago, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard initiated a historic legacy of corporate citizenship based on a simple belief, ‘The betterment of our society is not a job to be left to a few. It is a responsibility to be shared by all,’" Lane said.

The Conway Customer Contact Center carries this legacy forward through service in the local community, she said.

Townsend said there are usually 10 to 15 volunteer opportunities each month from walking and washing dogs to helping the Little Rock Zoo with their annual Boo at the Zoo.

Brandon Allen, HP inside sales representative, helps find volunteer opportunities in the Conway and Little Rock communities.

He said volunteer opportunities are everywhere, but the company tries to spend half its time in Little Rock and half its time in Conway.

In addition to the grant, HP wanted to help the teachers and students of Ida Burns by volunteering with lunchtime, recess and classroom activities.

"We’re here to help teachers get a break on a Friday," Lane said.

(Staff writer Michelle Corbet can be reached by email at michelle.corbet@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1215. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)