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The following is the most recent installment of the Concord Journal/Wicked Local Concord Volunteer of the Week, where we spotlight members of the community who have made significant contributions as volunteers.
This week, the spotlight shines on Bob Supnik of the Concord Council on Aging.
Can you explain your volunteer work?
I help seniors with their computers. This includes:
a) Fixing hardware and software problems: answering questions; making minor repairs; cleaning up after software crashes; installing new printers or other hardware; migrating to newer versions of operating systems or applications; clean up after a malware infection. Most of this work was done in person via “house calls.” Covid-19 has required additional safety precautions and much of the work is now done on the telephone or via contact-free drop-off and return of computers.
b) Refurbishing and donating used computers: I collect computers that have been discarded due to problems or replaced during an upgrade, erase all the data, make repairs, and install new software. Many of these came from the Carlisle “Swap Shed” (before it closed due to Covid-19) or from seniors who have upgraded their systems. The refurbished computers are then donated, at no cost except for repaired parts, to seniors, refugees, children, and non-profits. I have worked on 180 computers since 2013 and donated most of them.
c) Teaching courses on computer issues. Pre-COVID, I did two lectures a year on computer issues, such as security, maintenance, and managing Windows 10.
How did you get started?
Beginning in the mid-1990s, I provided computer support to the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, where my wife volunteered. The Museum had a tiny computer budget, so I learned how to scrounge and refurbish discarded PCs, as well as to repair PCs to extend their life. I am still providing support, 25 years later. When I retired from the computing industry in 2015, I looked for opportunities to apply my skills and give back to my community. I began working with the Carlisle Council on Aging in late 2016 and with the Concord Council on Aging in late 2019. I reached out to the Concord COA because I thought computer help to seniors would be just as useful “next door” as it is in Carlisle.
What keeps you coming back?
Computer technology has become indispensable, especially for seniors and especially in these times, when computer-mediated connections are the norm for classes, medical visits, obtaining rides, and seeing friends. However, the technology is quite complicated, and vendors make gratuitous and confusing changes all the time. Keeping systems secure is even more difficult. Solving computer problems for seniors makes their lives better. In some cases (such as cleaning up after malware), it saves them from potential financial misfortune. Further, I get to meet interesting people (fewer now than before March 2020) and learn about their stories and their contributions to local communities.
What is/was your profession?
I was a computer software and hardware designer and manager for more than 50 years. I worked in large companies, such as Digital Equipment Corporation, and startups.
What is your life like? Family? Children?
I live in Carlisle with my wife of 50+ years. We moved here in 1977, from closer into Boston. We wanted to live in Concord but couldn’t afford it; Carlisle was less expensive in those days. We have two children, both of whom attended CCHS, and three grandchildren, all local, so we see them frequently. We love the area for its historic character and open spaces, its trails and its byways, and its people.
From the COA
It was a lucky day for the Concord COA when Bob Supnik came to our attention. Bob, a retired tech expert and math historian, set up a workshop in his home to rescue and revitalize old computers, laptops, notebooks and tablets. Once in working order, Bob directs them to Concord and Carlisle seniors and others in need of a device to stay connected. Ace Bob hopes to return to helping seniors with other technology issues and problems as soon as it is safe to do so. During this pandemic, needs have risen and Bob rose to the occasion. – Victoria Jacobson, volunteer and public relations coordinator
If you know someone who should be profiled, send an email to Robert Fucci at [email protected] You can answer the questions below and include a headshot for an upcoming edition of the Concord Journal and Wicked Local Concord.