Maureen McMullen, Published March 14 2014
PCs for People donates refurbished computers to low-income families in F-M
But for families who can’t afford a computer for their home, it means searching for jobs, submitting resumes and doing homework can be difficult, if not impossible.
“(A computer) is a critical tool that most of us take for granted,” said Casey Sorensen, executive director for PCs for People, a Minnesota-based organization that collects and refurbishes used computers that are then donated to low-income families.
Each year, the nonprofit travels to 24 cities in the Upper Midwest to make technology more accessible to families in need.
For the past week, Sorensen and other representatives from PCs for People temporarily relocated from their St. Paul headquarters to the Fargo-Moorhead area.
The team collected about 300 computers from individuals and businesses in the area, including the Village Family Service Center, Prairie St. John and Otter Tail Power Co.
“The people we’re giving them out to – it’s all school-age kids – most of them have never owned a computer before, but they’ve used them,” Sorensen said. “(They’ve) gone to job search sites, they’ve gone to libraries, but they’ve never had a computer in their home.”
Of the 300 computers donated, Sorensen estimated about 250 were recyclable.
“We do a free pickup, we wipe the information and set up the computers like new, then we find a good home for them,” he said Friday. “So, the last three days have been sourcing; doing pickups, doing the refurbishing and now doing the handouts.”
The handouts began at 4 p.m. Friday in the Moorhead National Guard Armory.
Since 1998, PCs for People has given 30,000 computers to low-income families, offering services to Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.
Along with connecting families with computers, PCs for People worked with Midcontinent Communications to offer low-cost Internet services.
“Seventy percent of the recipients are unemployed, so a lot of them want to search for a job, and you can do that a lot more efficiently in the home,” Sorensen said. “They’re able to find a job since resumes and job applications have moved online.
“The other thing is homework, and we’ve gotten feedback from schools that now the kids can do homework at home,” he said. “They can do things like flipping the classroom where they can say, ‘Go home and watch this video, and tomorrow we’ll discuss it.’ So, it impacts education in a big way, too.”
The distribution event continues from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday at the armory in Moorhead, 1001 15th Ave. N.