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Non-profit hopes to put thousands of computers into community

MoD via Wikimedia | OGL v1.0 | CC BY 2.0

The Geek Group in Grand Rapids wants your old, broken computers.

They’re running a new program – rebooting and repairing computers by the hundreds – in order to get them back into the community and in the hands of families who can’t afford a brand-new system.

Group founder Chris Boden says the idea came after reading a report on low local graduation rates.

He says the program is a natural fit for the Geek Group. And the ecosystem benefits everyone – the community, local business and even interns at the science and technology-geared non-profit.

"The educational side wins. The intern wins. The company donating the computers gets a huge tax write-off for [donating]."

Boden says refurbishing costs an average of $47 per computer. The agency is selling a full desktop or laptop set for $50 – or $40 without a monitor.

Boden says they hope to provide 6,000 computers to the community this year. And he says it really took off after posting to a community Facebook page.

The coolest part, Boden says, is what happened next.

"People commented saying, I wish I could do this but I’ve only got like, thirty bucks. And other people would jump in and say well, I’ll spot you the $20. If this woman needs two computers for her family – I’m in. $100. I’m in. And they would arrange it on their own." 

Which has led to a lot of impromptu meet-ups in the lobby of the Geek Group.

"These are people who’ve never met each other before. They don’t know each other, they come from different sides of the tracks. Because you’ve got one woman who doesn’t have enough money for groceries this week, much less a computer. And another guy who’s like, well I got an extra hundred bucks, sure.

"And they meet, here. And there’s tears, and there’s hugs, and there’s 'oh my God,' and – it’s the greatest thing ever, man."

The Geek Group also now has an online donation portal you can use to gift a computer to a local family.

You can find out more by calling the agency at 616-466-4335, or online at TheGeekGroup.org.

Hilary is a General Assignment and Enterprise reporter for WGVU Public Media. She joined WGVU in September 2014 after several years of experience as a local news reporter, anchor and photojournalist in Midland, Saginaw and Bay counties. She's also worked as a financial and business reporter and audio field producer.
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