SPRING HILL — There’s an entire world of people missing out on the wonders of computer and smart device technology, not to mention the opportunities to connect, communicate and pursue hobbies leveraging these technologies.
For not up to speed or otherwise behind the technology curve, the Hernando Computer Club is standing by to help open a whole new world.
Chartered as a nonprofit group in 1997, the club’s mission is to provide members with a “forum for education in the use of computers” and to “foster fellowship and helpfulness within our membership using our expertise to advance our organization while providing learning opportunities and participating in activities which support the needs of the community.”
Over the years, the group has kept up with the changing times, expanding well beyond just helping people learn computers. Smartphones, tablets, use of streaming devices like the Amazon Fire TV Stick and Roku, as well as navigating the many features of smart televisions are all topics of classes and workshops held by the group, which has nearly 600 members, said Dave Lemon, club president.
For those apprehensive that the club is a hub of techies who speak another language, Lemon said there is a strong “social aspect” many enjoy.
All sessions and meetings are held at Grace Presbyterian Church, Building B, 8375 Spring Hill Drive. Newcomer orientations are drop-in affairs held from 10 a.m. until noon every Monday. The group’s website is www.hcc.org.
Classes and workshops such as one dedicated to food and recipes teach how the internet can be used to explore the wide world of cuisine. There’s a class on how to fly drones, using computers for genealogy research and even a Chinese painting class. There are crocheting and crafts workshops that tap the internet for ideas and projects.
The club has 25 volunteer staff members who lead classes and workshops. Many of the computer instructors are retired IT professionals, said Lemon.
“We have some very good people with a lot of expertise in the club,” said Lemon. “We also bring in guest experts.”
One feature of the club available to full members, who pay $30 a year to belong, is tech support dealing with viruses and malware problems. Members also may attend Friday Help, an open session where experts are on hand to help members with virtually any computer problem.
Those interested in most of the other classes and workshops do not have to join the club to attend, though there are small fees for each, usually ranging from $3 to $10.
Lemon said many of those who contact the club for help are elderly people who feel left behind.
“These are people who avoided computers their whole lives but want to learn so they can communicate with their grandchildren,” said Lemon. “They’ve decided it’s time.”
They also want to become competent using their home Wi-Fi and cable television services, as well as how to connect to printers with their phones and computers, he added.
“They want to get the most out of their devices,” Lemon said.
MaryAnn St. Arnaud is a club member. She was attending the All About Food workshop recently and noted that she enjoys learning and the company of people with similar interests. She noted that many members of the “food club within the club” also are gardeners, who enjoy exploring the use of produce in recipes.
Kearney Sheirich leads the food group and directs members to websites that feature food, local restaurants and even “copycat recipes” of famous restaurant dishes they can try at home.
In addition to serving its members, the Hernando Computer Club is active in the community. Among its contributions is repairing and updating computers and donating them to schools, as well as supporting organizations like the Spring Hill Botanical Gardens, where the computer club’s green-thumbed members maintain the computer group’s garden-within-the-gardens.
The club also supports local businesses and their employees with computer education.
“We get business people who come to us for help with software used in their business,” said Lemon, adding that particularly busy times for the club are when software companies upgrade operating systems or applications.