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11/15/1998
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Businessman befriends school, donates new computer lab
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Businessman befriends school, donates new computer lab
By Loretta Shea Kline
Catholic Key Reporter

computerlabrgb.JPG
Loretta Shea Kline/Key photo
Businessman Michael Eichenberg, who donated all of the computers and equipment for a new computer lab at Our Lady of the Angels School in midtown Kansas City, looks over the shoulder of second grader Michael Nguyen.
KANSAS CITY - Our Lady of the Angels School in midtown has a brand-new computer lab thanks to the generosity of a local businessman.

Michael Eichenberg, president and CEO of Mountain Energy in Overland Park, Kan., donated all 25 computers, four printers, a server, new furniture and wiring for the computer lab. He told students who assembled in the gymnasium Nov. 9 to thank him that his involvement with the school would not end with the ribbon cutting for the computer lab.

"I'm going to stay involved in the school," said Eichenberg, a member of St. Paul Parish in Olathe, Kan. "Consider me your friend and a friend of the school."

Eichenberg, 42, a graduate of Visitation School and Southwest High School in Kansas City, said he first visited Our Lady of the Angels School about a year ago. He bought his company, which sells natural gas to industrial and commercial customers, a short time earlier. Eichenberg said he went to Redemptorist Parish to settle a dispute the parish had with the company's previous owner over the way in which it had been billed. He ended up touring facilities at the parish complex, including the retirement home and school. He also ended up paying the parish's bill.

Eichenberg was impressed with the diversity of the student population and the atmosphere at the school, which is one of seven supported by the Central City School Fund, a partnership between the Diocese and the Kansas City community.

"I saw a school full of passionate people and a lot of smiling faces," Eichenberg said at the assembly. "I saw teachers here who care and students who wanted to learn."

Eichenberg began working with the school's computer committee, which was looking at upgrading its computer lab over a five-year period, Principal Mary Kallman said. The donation saved the school about $40,000 and four years in seeing its dream for updated technology realized, she said.

About 20 computers that were in the old lab are being upgraded with parts donated by Eichenberg, and placed in classrooms.

Eichenberg told students that the computer lab was made possible by the hard work of people such as Sharon Kisel, who teaches computer classes at the school, and her husband, Bob, who has volunteered his time and expertise to get the lab up and running.

"Time and effort is as important a gift as money," Eichenberg said.

Eichenberg, who has experienced cultural diversity within his family as his wife, Guadalupe, is Hispanic, said he wanted to help a school in the central city because of the diversity, and because there is often a disparity of resources between inner-city schools and schools in more affluent suburban areas.

"To me, there is no difference in children's ability to learn and succeed," provided the resources are there, he said.

Eichenberg said the computer lab was a direct gift from him, and not his company. He said he has found that the more he gives, the more he receives and has to give back. He urged students to find a way to give, such as shoveling snow for an elderly neighbor, or bringing the newspaper to an elderly neighbor's doorstep in bad weather.

"Giving is something that comes from the heart," Eichenberg told students. "There is no gift that is too small. There is no act of giving that is too small."


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