The HeliOS Project is now.....

The HeliOS Project is now.....
Same mission, same folks...just a different name

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bringing Light Into The Darkness

The Title of this blog?

It has nothing to do with us. Rather, it has everything to do with a group of people who care enough to wade through the human filth of child abuse and rescue those needing them long ago.

The Settlement Home is founded by 450 caring Austin and Central Texas women. They have built a place of safety and healing for girls that have seen the ugliest side of human nature...the side that cares only for satisfying a dark and uncaring id.

Don't ask me to be any more specific, rage is not far from me as I write this.

Mike Downing, the RTC Director called me last Wednesday. He wanted to know if his non-profit qualified for our assistance. Mike was about 1/3 of the way through his pitch when I stopped him.

"When can I come out and look the place over? We'll be glad to help you."

As Mike spoke, I Googled The Settlement Home. Something deep in the muck of memory was struggling to get struck me soon enough. And no, we won't go into the revelation...suffice it to say that there are some real-life hero's working within this system and I know who they are.

Not that it simply speaks to me the character of this place. These people wouldn't be there if it wasn't a place of healing.

I arrived at the Settlement Home at 10 am that next Saturday. I was met by Heather Siegfried, Youth Care Coordinator, and Brooke Fell, Support Services Coordinator. They walked me to the Administration building to meet the guy that was going to be our partner in this project.

His name is Ben Garcia and he is the Network Administrator for The Settlement Home. Ben fit my stereotype of a Professional Geek immediately. He was quiet, and when he spoke it was with precise focus on what he wanted to communicate without any fluff. His gaze was as intense as his knowledge of what he does.

I had dreaded this meeting for the entire span of time between Mike's phone call and the present moment.

The moment I had to tell this Network Administrator that I was going to use Linux exclusively for the project. I was ready for the argument when it came time to bring it forward.

Heather, Brooke and Ben walked me into the first dorm so I could see the physical layout of the work areas. All the dorms are basically the same so I could make sketches from this one and pretty much have an idea of the other three buildings. Some of the girls peeked in cautiously as we spoke.

There would be a total of 12 computers needed. Each room in each dorm had 3 girls residing within. We would supply 1 computer for every three-girl dorm room. As I made notes of the layout, I nonchalantly cleared my throat and addressed Ben.

"We're going to be installing Linux on these machines Ben, is that going to cause you any problems?"

I finished my sketch in the next two seconds and looked up to see his physical response.

"No, that's all I run here."

I was just about overwhelmed with relief and I raised my hand in a high-five invitation and couldn't help but show my delight.


We completed the male ritual with unpracticed awkwardness. It was about 5 minutes into the rapid-fire back and forth about distros, servers, Kernels and networking stuff that I noticed the female portion of our group had left.

I can't blame them...male bonding can be a bit embarrassing. Especially Geek male bonding.

Ben took me immediately into the server room. He has been at The Settlement Home since 1999 and is one of the shortest term employee's at the home. The Executive Director, Linda Kokemor, just celebrated her 28th year there. The Settlement Home doesn't have any employee turnover. The people that work there are dedicated and loving people who love what they do...and they love each and every girl there as if they were their own.

Some of them do not make that an easy task. There are some extremely troubled girls within this Place of Hope.

Because of the sensitive nature of the clientèle and staff, the network there is hardened to steel-cased proportions. I watched and listened in awe as Ben showed me his that had taken a decade to do. He built this elaborate and effective network from the ground up and it is a model of professionalism and pride. I spent the better part of three hours with Ben, walking the grounds, meeting the staff and the girls that live there...

The girls that are healing from some of the most atrocious wounds anyone can imagine.

Wounds of the Spirit.

So the HeliOS Project is going into The Settlement Home and we are going to provide these girls with the best we can give them. Mike, you and your staff honor us by allowing us to complete this task. We will spare nothing to make sure they have everything they skimping, no short cuts. This will certainly tax our already critical need for wireless adapters but we will proceed as if all our needs will be met.

We are going to match the thing that The Settlement home gives them most.

We are going to give them Love.

All-Righty Then

many thanks to metallixfaker for the use of his fantastic art...Tattered Teddy Bear


Anonymous said...

That's awesome, Ken. Thank you for doing this, you are making a huge influence on lives. More power to you. :)

Jacob Stone - San Antonio said...

Ken, I don't know what to say. The work you guys do is inspiring and we're just a bit in awe of you guys down south here. I know you have one or two detractors. One of them particularly nasty from some of his posts. Don't let some fool who won't even sign his real name influence or bother you. It's easy to threaten and bully someone when you are hiding behind a keyboard. I was going to respond to one of his posts but it's obvious he's just a bit obsessed.

I will be in Austin in the next two weeks and hope to come by. It's my understanding that Ryan is going to be in town shortly before he goes back to Afghanistan, is that correct? Hopefully we can all get together before he goes back.

You do fantastic work my friend. Eye on the prize baby...eye on the prize.


Unknown said...

Wow. You guys continue to astound me. I wish I had more hardware to give you.

I love the bit about male bonding in this post, just hilarious. :) Keep up the good work!

Unknown said...

@ Jake

Hey you disappear for weeks at a time then pop up? Must be nice.

Sommers said he had some business in Iowa or somewhere like that before he comes home. We're looking for him in the next two weeks or so. If the planets and stars align right...maybe.


pashda said...

Truely inspiring. Good luck to you.

gagy said...

Boy! Oh Boy!
Ken, I wish I could be of more help.
Thank you for your concern and keeping your eyes and ears to the ground.
You and your friends do save our faces.

Steve DuChene said...


Can you elaborate a little bit on your wireless adaptor need? Perhaps there are folks who take the time to read your stuff regularly who might have things laying around that would be of use to you and your many deserving projects.

Andrew Magnus - Austin said...

Hey Steve,

The very end of the blog has a link to the article outlining the shortages and actually has links to the types we've found to work the best with the majority of distros. Not saying they are the only ones, just the ones we've found to work the most often. With the development of the 27 Kernel, most any will work now, these just do it without any fussing.


Randi Fosberg - Boise Idaho said...

There isn't much I can add to this Ken except that you have inspired us in Boise. I have started an initiative and have patterned it as closely to yours as possible, based on your meticulous blogs. Mellisa Mann-Carter will be in contact with you shortly to ask about some specific things regarding some logistical minutia. We are looking forward to kicking off our project in June.

This is simply a communication to let you know that what you do not only affects the disadvantaged, it inspires others to do the same. It leads me to wonder how many others have done the same.

Randi Fosberg - Boise ID

Terri Dula said...

When members of the Club, volunteer women and some terrific gentlemen, speak of our mission and why we help support The Settlement Home and its incredible professionals on the Staff,from Director down, we say we believe in the treatment plan for our chidren…”healing through love”.

That you could read about this Austin icon and see with your heart, speaks volumes about you as a man, (and organization), who cares beyond himself. Thank you for seeing with your heart and not turning away because their stories are too hard to hear.
Thank you so much for reaching out in THE most important way possible to insure they have a chance at a future…through education. You could not have given a greater gift nor one that could have a more long-range effect. You will never see the beautiful shadow you have cast over our Home…but so many will benefit from it.

On behalf of all the members of the Settlement Club please know how very grateful we are to you for such a gift!

Terri Dula
Settlement Club President

Jack L said...

Heh You need to have the network guy nudge their web guy. "Best Viewed With IE 6.0" *Cringe*
Looks like another great project.

Unknown said...

Yeah, and therein lies the rub. Ben might live and die by GNU/Linux and Free Software but he's a voyager in a Windows World...he does the best he can.

Many in the admin offices still use XP and that's a decision he has not yet been able to sway, but then again, Ben Garcia is a brilliant Network Engineer...not an advocate. It takes know-nothing wannabe geeks like me to sell it. ;-)

Swift Arrow said...

God Bless you. God Bless the Settlement home and the good people that work there.

Chad said...

Dude, through tears at work; you never cease to inspire me.

Michael said...

This is wonderful work you're doing. If there is anything we at Qimo can do to help, please let us know.

If your computers can run it, I recommend getting Alice ( for the girls.

Anonymous said...

@ helios

It takes know-nothing wannabe geeks like me to sell it.I only wish I were the "know-nothing wannabe" you are Ken.

Bless you and your Directors. You may not be comfortable with the language, but you are doing the Lord's work.

Unknown said...

Michael, you already have helped. for our younger ones, we always put Qimo on their computers. You folks have hit the perfect match of apps...If mom or dad want to jump on and do mom and dad stuff, they can while the kids have everything they need. we are anxious to watch the growth of this distro.


Anonymous said...

It takes know-nothing wannabe geeks like me to sell it.

Ken I just hope that someday I can be half the know-nothing wannabe geek you are.

And what you may or may not lack in Linux knowledge, you make up by being the very best advocate this community can have.

Anonymous said...

hero's -> heroes

Apostrophes in a nutshell:

x's a = "the a of x" for all x, x <> "it"
it's a = "it is a"
its a = "the a of it"

Unknown said...

thank you.

Tom said...

This kind of project inspires a lot us.

Not only giving them love, but hope and more freedom.