For years, D.A.P.’s Computer Lab has been providing a connection to the digital world for clients who may not have access to computers or the Internet from home or elsewhere. While the lab’s computer equipment was serviceable enough, it certainly wasn’t latest generation or state-of-the-art. But much of that has changed, thanks to Harold Clumeck’s generous donation of $30,000.
“With his generous gift, we were able to add six new computers, doubling the number previously available to clients. The printer and fax machines have been updated and we’ve got 24-inch monitors that have replaced the old 19 inchers,” says D.A.P.’s Information Systems Manager Matt Farokhmanesh. “And the computers we already had have been tuned up to match the faster processing speed of the new ones. Mr. Clumeck has given the older computers another five years to run and provide good service for our clients.”
Asked what’s different about the new and refurbished machines, Matt beams, “They’re faster!” A simple answer, delivered with a big smile, is the one many techies have learned is often best, rather than rattling off things few people but them understand anyway. Although Matt looks at the new lab and sees the Core I-5 4590 versus the old Pentium E5300 and how the former outperforms the latter, Harold looks at them and sees something else altogether.
Beyond the computer lab, due to reopen after renovations April 8, Harold sees a fitting memorial to his life partner, Jerry Behrend. The two met at the Castro Lions Club in San Francisco in 1990. Harold was a speech pathologist with the Veteran’s Administration hospital and Jerry, former military, was a systems analyst with a local firm. Jerry began in the early days of computers, back in the 1960s, and was nicknamed The Firefighter for his ability to solve seemingly impossible problems on this complex and new apparatus, according to Leroy Olson, Jerry’s old work buddy from “back in the day” at Consolidated Papers in Wisconsin Rapids, WI.
The right-brained Jerry with his acute spatial awareness and the left-brained Harold, whose strong suit was language, were a perfect yin-and-yang fit. After a few months of dating, Harold realized, “I couldn’t imagine life without him.” The two were together for 20 years.
Although they’d lived in its epicenter when the disease was at its most vicious, HIV and AIDS barely touched Harold and Jerry’s lives. “I remember the first cat I adopted was from a fellow who was HIV positive,” Harold recalls. “At the time, AIDS patients were told to get rid of their pets because of toxoplasmosis.”
Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by the Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) parasite found in the intestines of cats. It can be transferred to humans with compromised immune systems causing brain lesions, called toxoplasmic encephalitis. Anti-retroviral therapy sometimes taken with anti-T gondii prophylaxis, have pretty much eliminated that threat.
AIDS did not separate Jerry from Harold, heart disease did. “He had serious cardiovascular complications and two open-heart surgeries, then more vascular problems. They were repaired in 2010 and he was good to go,” Harold reflects. “We were on the edge of selling our house in San Francisco and moving here to Palm Springs to retire… when suddenly, he died.”
As Harold finished the business of selling the house, moving here, and getting involved socially, he established the Jerry Behrend Computer Learning Center at the Mizell Senior Center before making this gift to D.A.P.’s Computer Lab. “Doing this now is a way of dealing with the grief,” Harold confessed.
But Harold’s loss and pain has turned into hope for scores of clients, who use the computer lab every week. “Everything you use your computer for at home, clients have here,” says Ray Robertson, who manages the Community Wellness Services Center where the Computer Lab and myriad other client programs are housed. “For some, the Computer Lab is their only access to technology.”
For these clients, the lab is a convenient place to apply for jobs or for Cal Fresh, California’s food stamp program. Some of them look into returning to school while others do homework. Still others might just answer emails. “Whatever they need to do on the computer, they can do here. A lot of our clients would be lost without our lab,” Ray says. “Thanks to Harold and this wonderful gift, we can give them even better technology resources.”