Refurbished computers help narrow the digital gap

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PCs for People evens economic odds in this day and age when computer access is all—think Internet information and e-mail communication—but  many of us can’t afford one. Also, gone is the time of searching for a job or finding a home by getting a newspaper and combing through classifieds ads. By the time you do, someone has beat you to it online.

Jordan Maloney, assistant customer service manager for PCs for People, points up another aspect, education, that can spell the difference between youngsters getting somewhere in life and being left on society’s sidelines. “Parents,” she says, “don’t have to send their children to the library to do homework, because most things are online now.

“It’s really important to have a computer in the home, to be connected in that way to get their school work done.” Libraries, after all, have closing hours. In short, a world of convenience needn’t cost an arm and a leg.

Maloney reflects on seeing customers learn to use this life-changing device: “It feels really good, honestly, to see their smiles.” She adds that staff can acquaint the uninitiated with fundamentals, from what cord plugs in where to how to navigate networks and so on.

“We love to sit with [them]. They explain to us their day-to-day life, what they would be using the equipment for. With that knowledge, we’re able to direct them towards what product works best for them.”

This includes the practicality of safeguarding electronics from kids. As in, they can’t have liquids of any kind around laptops, which will crash at the slightest spill. In that case, a desktop model is recommended. She also troubleshoots problems for adults on how to treat the equipment, trains staff, and advises customers on such things as word processing and digital literacy.

Businesses generally toss outdated yet still usable tech in the trash, then buy new machines with better bells and whistles. PCs for People trades on this. Maloney noted, “It’s amazing in the way we do it, because at the same time we’re eliminating waste from businesses that upgrade their computers…making it accessible to families that have limited means.”

Founded in 1998, to date PCs for People have refurbished and moved across the counter some 80,000 computers, more than 30,000 internet subscriptions for rock bottom prices, and provided affordable repairs.

Every so often, customers get still more of a break. This past October, for instance, a Dell Multiplex 750 desktop drive with monitor, keyboard and mouse went for less than half what the Multiplex alone runs at most retail stores. This doesn’t happen as much as Maloney would like, but a Black Friday sale is on the drawing board.

PCs for People’s power to do this sort of thing is something of a secret weapon, since there’s no budget for advertising. “We try to get information out there.” Importantly, they keep working to make cost-saving values available. “It depends on different grants we’re able to get.”

Which is where Community Outreach & Fundraising Manager Mary Lucic comes in. She relates, “When it comes to fundraising, I am inspired by the generosity we see on a daily basis from our donors and volunteers. [The] outreach is rewarding because I have the opportunity to meet so many people in our community.

“I’m able to build relationships and work with likeminded partners whose goal is to make the Twin Cities a more equitable place to live and work,” says Lucic. One such likeminded partner is Mobile Beacon, with whom PCs for People teams, getting word out to schools, libraries and nonprofits on how those they serve can get top-flight technology at rock-bottom prices.

CenturyLink has also recently announced that it is making computers even more accessible with a $25,000 donation to PCs for People. To support current social distancing requirements, CenturyLink is also covering the cost of shipping so individuals and families can have their computers shipped directly to their home. To be eligible, candidates must meet PCs for People’s edibility requirements, provide documentation, and live in a market served by CenturyLink.

CenturyLink has been a long-time partner of PCs for People. The company has recycled over 300 computers and 1,000+ pounds of e-waste using PCs for People’s secure IT Asset Disposition and recycling services.  

PCs for People is headquartered in St. Paul at 1481 Marshall Ave.; 651-354-2552. They also have Denver and Cleveland locations. To apply for CenturyLink assistance, visit pcsforpeople.org/centurylink.

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