“You have to Give”–Patrick Pollard
As I walk into the computer lab, I am greeted with a warm smile and handshake from a long time volunteer. One can not help but feel welcome on Mondays in the AFN computer lab at Rosewood Zaragosa Neighborhood Center, when Patrick sits at the desk. We sit down and Patrick begins to relay to me the events which led him through trials, triumphs, and ultimately, the Austin Free-Net computer lab.
Patrick was born in East Austin and grew up during the turbulence of the Civil Rights movement. At an early age, he was exposed to the sometimes unfair nature of this world. He recalls a trip to the local corner store with his mother to buy a soda in celebration of African Americans finally being allowed into the store.
Patrick refused to let the prejudice he witnessed as a child hold him back. He attended Huston-Tillotson University where he earned a degree in computer science. During the summers, his uncle would teach him how to drive a commercial truck. After graduation he started working, but soon the company he was working for closed and he was forced to find a new job.
During his job search, Patrick’s drivers license expired. He went to the DPS to renew his license and was shocked at what happened. Upon arriving, he was informed his license had been suspended due to a build up of tickets he had received when he was a young adult. Now, with a suspended license and no job, Patrick was desperate. He moved back home with his mother in East Austin while he struggled to get back on his feet.
In 2011, Patrick began visiting Austin Free-Net to use the computer labs at the DeWitty Center. He spent his days in the lab searching for a new job with the help from friendly AFN volunteers. “Austin Free-Net was my oasis” Patrick recalls. During his time in the AFN lab, Patrick was encouraged to begin volunteering due to his extensive knowledge of computers. Patrick was informed he could get his tickets dismissed through community service. Eager to return the help he received, Patrick began volunteering in the computer lab at Rosewood Zaragosa Neighborhood Center.
While volunteering, Patrick helped his clients create emails, improve on their typing skills, learn how to use Microsoft Office, and find jobs. Patrick created a community in the lab. For two years, Patrick greeted his clients with a snack and all the knowledge they needed from his computer science degree. When he completed his community service hours, he reluctantly waved goodbye to the family he had made at AFN.
Patrick began to make use of the skills he had acquired from his uncle during the summers in college to get a job as a commercial trucker. He had always wanted to see the world and now, through his job, he was able to see everything, but “once you’ve seen everything, you’ve seen it” says Patrick. The thrill of traveling wore off and Patrick began to ache for more substance in his life. “I would be in Connecticut or New York and thinking about the AFN lab” Patrick remembers .
AFN provided Patrick with the assistance he needed during a trying time. His gratitude for the aid he received during a challenging time in his life overwhelmed him. During his next trip to Austin he visited his family at Austin Free-Net in order to begin giving back what he had been given. Now, Patrick volunteers at the AFN computer lab at Rosewood Zaragosa Neighborhood Center every Monday from 9 am -4 pm, which is his only day off from work.
Patrick runs the lab with such joy and patience it is hard to not feel the appreciation he has for the assistance provided by AFN. He greets every client as a friend; with an understanding of the trials of life and knowledge of the aid AFN can provide during those difficult times.
When asked why he would spend his day off in an AFN computer lab assisting the community he grew up in, Patrick responds, “What better way to spend my day off than to give? You have to give.”
On June 2, 2017, Patrick received Austin Free-Net’s highest honor, “The Golden Mouse Award” for his dedication to community service and achievements. If you would like to join our phenomenal team of volunteers, contact us today.
Article by: Amy Shortt, AFN Communications Intern