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Coca-Cola donates laptops to Reichert House

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

Coca-Cola Beverages Florida donated 10 HP Chromebook laptops today to the Reichert House Youth Academy STEM lab.

John Mitchell, Manager of Public Affairs & Community Relations for Coca-Cola Beverages Florida in Tampa told a group of Reichert House students that the company is passionate about giving back to the community and that they want to continue to grow their relationship with Reichert House. He asked the students what their favorite drink is, and most of the students named Coca-Cola beverages: Coca-Cola Orange Vanilla, Sprite, Body Armor, and Coca-Cola Classic. One student, however, declared that Pepsi was his favorite drink, causing the room to break into laughter.

Mitchell said the Tampa-based company has been in business just under 5 years, and their Gainesville facility on East University Avenue handles distribution, warehousing, sales, and operations in the local area. “We are passionate about three things: sustainability, economic empowerment, and education; and underneath that education pillar, we are focused on four sub-categories: youth development, mentoring, scholarships, and access to technology.”

John Mitchell speaks to the students

Michael Gipe, a Gainesville-based Associate Services Administrator with Coca-Cola Beverages Florida, said that while the company used to do bottling at the Gainesville facility, bottling is currently done in Jacksonville. The Gainesville facility has about 107 employees.

Michael Gipe (second from left) speaks to the students

Mitchell encouraged the students to consider working for Coca-Cola, since they employ people in a wide range of fields. Since the event was held in the Reichert House robotics lab, Mitchell said the bottles are made “with high-end robotics… it takes… people… with that background to be able to understand how does this equipment work? How do we get it back to being more efficient?… We are going to a tech age in this society… I can do all my work on a laptop. As part of Black History Month, we are going around the entire state, connecting with amazing organizations like the Reichert House and equipping students with laptops because we understand that there’s a digital divide, and we want there to be an equal, level playing field for everyone to have access to technology and be successful.”

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Mitchell said the students should be thankful for Reichert House: “I support many communities across the entire state of Florida, and none that I’ve seen have this caliber of a program, where you guys are being equipped with as many resources and levels of support [as] you guys are receiving here.”

Gainesville Police Department Chief Tony Jones told the students about a recent interaction with a Reichert House graduate who is currently a senior at Florida A&M University. “I’m very thankful to Coke for helping get some of these kids on the track that he is on.”

GPD Chief Tony Jones (right)

GPD Chief Inspector Jorge Campos said that when he was a student, “having access to [a computer] at home after school definitely facilitated my ability to increase my skills… This equipment… is vital in them continuing to learn, and many of them have the ambition and the drive to learn… That exploration helps them in their skill set as they go.”

Reichert House Manager Caleb Young told the students, “Be encouraged, guys… I’m so glad that we’ve got friends in Coca-Cola… we are blessed… We’re going to take these laptops and every other resource you provide to us and use it to the best of our abilities… thank you.”

Caleb Young, Michel Gipe, John Alexander

Reichert House Executive Director John Alexander said, “Reichert House would not be here without community collaboration… People are giving to you, much is required, you’ve got to give back. How do you return your investment on this? Do well in the classroom, serve your community, high citizenship, social awareness… it starts with things like these. Thank you again… for doing this. You have no idea how far this goes. We talk about the digital divide; this is how you close the digital divide. It’s by having partnerships like this, and it truly changes lives.”

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