Missoula high schooler donates computers to moms in need

Two more Missoulians have access to computers to apply for jobs and school thanks to the work of a local high school student.

Last week, Hellgate High School junior Graham Southall donated two refurbished computers to Missoula’s Mountain Home Montana, a nonprofit in Missoula that provides wrap-around services and shelter for new mothers needing a place to live.

“There’s constantly a need in Mountain Home,” the nonprofit’s Executive Director Steph Goble said of access to computers.

Southall donated the rebuilt PCs along with a $2,000 check on Nov. 16.

“They’re going to young moms working on either finishing a degree or trying to secure a job,” Goble said, adding that almost every person needs a computer to complete basic tasks such as applying for jobs and school, communicating and doing things like telehealth appointments.

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Graham Southall, a high-school junior, describes how helping a single mom can impact lives for the better after he donated two refurbished computers to Mountain Home Montana.

Southall said the process took him about a year of working off and on in his basement. He purchased new monitors, installed Windows software, optimized the machines’ settings and wiped out the dust. He also purchased Wi-Fi adapters to make internet connection easier.

Southall recently interned at Cedar Mountain Software in Missoula. The company’s owner gave Southall the idea after he suggested on Southall’s last day to take old computers lying around, rebuild and donate them.

“He said, what if we take computers from businesses and refurbish them, clean them and do all that, and then give them away,” Southall said.

Southall enlisted donations for rebuilding costs through a GoFundMe page, which collected about $3,000. The cost of parts for working on the computers came in at only $700, so Southall wrote a check to Mountain Home for the remaining amount.

He looked at a few organizations around Missoula and decided to donate his finished products to Mountain Home.

After Graham reached out, Mountain Home reviewed their waiting list. The computers were sent to their new owners in 48 hours, Goble explained.

“We really consider (computers) a basic need,” she said.

The cash donation went toward the nonprofit’s Support Employment and Education program, which helps moms navigate finding and keeping employment along with supporting their educational pursuits, Goble said.

Working on computers isn’t new to Southall. He built a gaming computer as a seventh grader.

“It’s like adult Legos,” he laughed. Southall will be around Missoula for a few more years and plans to help out with tech support if the computers have any issues.

Southall hopes getting computers into the hands of these young moms will have a ripple effect.

“It’s not only going to help with them and their life, but also their kids,” he said of the moms who got the computers. ”If their kids are able to grow up in a safe and supportive environment, then they’re going to do a lot better in life and their kids will have a larger chance.”

Goble recalled one mom who received a computer from Mountain Home (separate from Southall’s) and signed up for four types of government assistance when she got internet access. It expedited the woman’s ability to get food to her and her children.

“She wasn’t going to be able to get food stamps without having the ability to do the paperwork online,” Goble said. “That’s an impact.”

Goble said it’s rare to get donations from busy 17-year-old high school students.

“The fact that Graham thought of us, we were so touched and moved,” Goble said. “We hope his message rings true during the holidays for lots of folks.”

As the winter months set in, Mountain Home is accepting donations for cold weather clothes, unused bedding and baby items.

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