Expansion of the program will help The Geek Group recycle and refurbish more computers for those who need them.

Willona Sloan, Freelance writer

August 6, 2018

3 Min Read
Grand Rapids, Mich., Program Expands Computer Recycling Efforts

Grand Rapids, Mich.-based nonprofit organization The Geek Group recently expanded its Computers for Families e-recycling program with the opening of its new Computer Recycling Center.  

While the Computers for Families program has been around for a few years, since about 2012, this new expansion will help the organization get more machines recycled, refurbished and into the hands of people who need them.

“The computers are all donated from various businesses and mechanisms in the industry, though we get a lot of machines from private home users,” says Chris Boden, president, CEO and founder of The Geek Group.

The organization collects as many computers as it possibly can, says Boden. The team will wipe the data clean, repair the machines and get them ready for families who can then buy a desktop computer for as low as $25; a desktop system with the accessories for as low as $50; and a laptop for as low as $100.

“We have no limitations [on who gets computers]. We don’t make them prove their income, their residence, their address or anything like that,” explains Boden. “We don’t care where they’re from. We want to help people. We are not going to limit it. The idea is to get it absolutely as cheap as we can possibly do it, in as big of numbers as we can.”

The program has facilitated providing 3,200 computers at either low or no cost to families in need, many of whom had never before had a computer in their home. The organization hosts giveaway events in Grand Rapids and beyond.

In a recent Facebook post announcing the program’s expansion, Boden explained that the organization wants to help to decrease high school dropout rates in the local community. By helping kids gain access to computers, the nonprofit also hopes to help students succeed in school and be more engaged in their studies. Boden notes that one in 10 families in Grand Rapids do not have a computer at home.

The Geek Group will take donated computers from anywhere in the country. “If people want to bring [the computers] here, we will take them, and we take them for free,” notes Boden. “We don’t charge to take computers. There are places in town that will accept donations of old computers, and they charge people to take them. They’re not doing things to get the computers back into use and to families. They are shredding them and sending them off for scrap.”

According to Boden, The Geek Group throws out as little as possible. “We scrap the bare minimum that we possibly can, and nothing goes in the trash,” he says. “We overhaul everything that comes in.”

This is just one of the programs at The Geek Group. It is a National Science Institute and a makerspace, which is a collaborative workspace where people can gather to create, invent and learn. “We are entirely focused on providing access and getting people educated and empowered in the areas of science and technology,” says Boden. The organization runs a high school and offers vocational programming. It also runs workshops for a $20 per month membership.

“We pretty much invented the ‘makerspace.’ We have been doing this for 24 years. We are the largest, oldest makerspace in the world,” says Boden. The space includes a wood shop, metal shop, electronics lab, computer lab, robotics lab and laser lab.

If companies have scrap materials left over from production, they can donate the materials to be recycled or made available for students and makers to use for their own projects.

As for the computer donation program, Boden is hoping word spreads. “I would love to be getting computers by the semi truck full,” he says.

About the Author(s)

Willona Sloan

Freelance writer, Waste360

Willona Sloan is a freelance writer for Waste360 covering the collection and transfer beat.

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