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A Little TLC Goes a Long Way

July 06, 2017

By Amy Krause

Not sure why your computer’s firewall is blocking your favorite website? Not sure what a firewall is? How did cookies get into your computer? Lucky for us, North Shore Senior Center’s Technology Learning Center (TLC) has around 20 technologically advanced volunteers who help the rest of us understand how to access information from the cloud, install applications onto our phones and tablets, and a whole host of other technological challenges. 

TLC volunteers hold open lab every Wednesday and Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. to help install software, answer questions about smart phones, tablets, hardware and laptops, and resolve computer issues. “We solve all problems digital,” said Murray Freeman, who has volunteered in the TLC for the past seven years. “And, unlike teenagers who grab your phone and fix your problem, we show people how to fix their issues. Many times, we write out steps on how to do something so people are educated and empowered.”

Longtime volunteer Jim Ahtes said the assistance they offer has changed quite a bit through the years. “Years ago, most of the people who came in were new users and needed help with learning very basic things like email. Now, we see experienced users who need help with more advanced issues like mobile device setups and data transfers.”

Bob Brotman and the late Gerson Meyers were some of the first volunteers of the TLC when North Shore Senior Center was still housed at New Trier West. When the Center moved to its current location in 2000, the duo was asked to help design the computer lab. They advised on everything from cable placement underneath the floors to how the desks should be set up in the room. In the early days of the TLC, Bob and Gerson were the lone volunteers. When more folks began showing up for classes, they recruited other volunteers to help with the demand. Bob also founded the Tech Lovers Club, which is now led by volunteer Stanley Schwab. The Tech Lovers Club meets the third Friday of each month from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Stan gives technology updates on security software, new applications and programs, and advice on how to optimize programs.

Retired administrative assistant Adrian Rattner shares her extensive knowledge of mail merges, excel spreadsheets and file organization with people who want to get organized. “Computers are part of our lives whether we like it or not so we need to understand how to use them. I like to share what I know so that others can grasp the process and do it themselves.”

Although most folks are impressed with the knowledge the TLC volunteers possess, the volunteers are equally impressed with the people who show up for open lab. Four-year volunteer Fred Schulz said, “The people who come in here are knowledge seekers. I really enjoy that camaraderie and the friendships I make along the way.”

The group unanimously agrees that the TLC wouldn’t be what it is without the support of North Shore Senior Center’s information technology guys, Jim Habel and Matt Thornton. In addition to maintaining every computer in the Northfield and Niles offices, the two staff technology experts “have performed something of a miracle” in their acquisition, installation, updating and maintenance of the TLC’s computers, printers, projectors and network, according to Jim Ahtes. “This is no small feat, as the space is used five days a week by various groups, each needing something different from the computers and printers. Managing all of these different programs, software and printers could lead to a computer nightmare, but Jim and Matt do an amazing job of making it seamless for everyone.”

If you want to learn more about your tablet, smart phone, computer or other electronic device, stop by the TLC, where a bunch of tech savvy folks are waiting to help!