County to donate surplus computers to local nonprofit Free Geek

November 12, 2015

Free Geek volunteer Charles Dory addresses the Board of Commissioner on Thursday.

Charles “Carlos” Dory lumbered to a bus stop in northwest Portland, carrying the clunky body of a PC. He climbed aboard a bus headed east to the Gateway neighborhood, then walked the rest of the way to his mother Earnie’s house.

It was her 66th birthday.

There, he presented her with the desktop computer he refurbished himself as a volunteer at Free Geek.

“Oh Charles!”  She said and laughed, repeating his name again and again. He had loaded the computer with her favorite music and photos from her life and of her family.

“I’m really enjoying the pictures,” Earnie says today. “I can see my grandbabies pictures. They live in New York.  It’s really a blessing to me.”

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners Thursday endorsed a countywide plan to send surplus computers and monitors to the Portland-based nonprofit, which refurbishes used computers, gives them to residents who might not otherwise be able to afford them and sells them to fund their free classes and job training.

“This is really a win-win-win for equity and helps bridge the digital divide in our community,” said John Wasiutynski, director of the county’s Office of Sustainability. “And Free Geek doesn’t just provide a computer. They teach you how to use it.”

Free Geek last year distributed more than $1 million worth of refurbished technology, taught more than 400 classes and logged more than 20,000 volunteer hours, according to the nonprofit’s federal financial statement.

“This partnership is going to leverage that impact,” said Coleen Dixon, director of Public Services at Free Geek.

Bob Leek, the county’s deputy chief information officer, estimates the county will send about 1,000 a year to Free Geek.

Commissioner Loretta Smith, who sponsored Thursday’s resolution, called the partnership “a wonderful thing.”

Too often, she said, low-income residents have to travel somewhere else for even the briefest of internet sessions.

Chair Deborah Kafoury agreed.

“It feels good to give these to an organization that can reuse them, thinking about those families who wouldn’t have access without it,” she said, “the seniors in our community who might feel isolated, this is way to connect to friends and family and the World Wide Web.”