No matter what your age, imagine the thrill and gratitude of receiving a free, up-to-date computer, when you needed but couldn’t afford one, courtesy of the generosity of the Sequim PC Users Group.
“About five years ago, we were asked by the Sequim Kiwanis to refurbish computers,” said club president Tom LaMure, but after that Kiwanis club disbanded, the users group made refurbishing donated computers a project of its own.
Since then, LaMure’s large garage has been turned into two rooms of of a cluttered — but organized — assembly line with a dozen volunteers wiping clean hard drives, replacing parts, adding software/accessories and testing for full functionality. It should be noted the group does not buy or sell used computers.
“We’ve given away over 565 computers since we started keeping track and started with Windows XP (old) moving up to Windows 10 (new),” LaMure said.
“The recipient should be somebody who needs, wants, will use and can’t afford a computer,” LaMure stressed. For example, he said, a Peninsula College professor had two sisters in his class who needed computers to do his assignments. He contacted the group, SPCUG passed along two state-of-the-art laptops and the sisters made a modest donation to the group.
The club has nonprofit status and is a Microsoft Registered Refurbisher, which allows it to buy certified Microsoft operating systems at a greatly reduced rate. The club’s dues — $25 each annually from about 110 members — go to pay for accessories like batteries and power cords or any other defunct parts that need replaced and aren’t on hand in the shop’s inventory.
Gesturing to computers on the work benches and desktops standing like dead soldiers in the next room, LaMure said, “These were doomed for the trash. It feels good to know that we’re keeping potentially useful computers out of the dump and we’re giving people access to the window into the world and all of mankind’s knowledge, the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful … it’s all there and is their choice with a click.”
LaMure confesses he’s not as tech savvy as the group’s refurbishers, so he puts his networking skills to use by coordinating with social service agencies like First Step, Peninsula Behavioral Health, the Boys &Girls Club, Habitat for Humanity and the Sequim Food Bank plus veterans groups and foster families solely on a referral basis. Other nonprofit groups are encouraged to contact LaMure at firstname.lastname@example.org to be considered.
Asked if the refurbishers directly present the computers to the people they’re giving them to, LaMure said, “Not usually. We give them to the ‘case workers’ who work with the various social services and they take them to their clients, but we do get thank you notes that I relay to the team.
“On the other hand, occasionally someone will come to get a computer, like a mom who is home schooling that may have contacted us or college students who’ve been referred and I invite them to come by. Another thing that happens occasionally is that someone who has received a computer that crashes or they do something that needs attention may bring it back to the shop to get it fixed. Sometimes we can but if not we simply give them an exchange and away they go.”
The club accepts donations of desktops, laptops, keyboards, mice and monitors — but not printers and scanners — and anyone receiving a new computer this Christmas is encouraged to pay it forward by donating their older system to SPCUG.
“People don’t know what to do with their old computers,” LaMure said. “We do ask them NOT to destroy the hard drive — we wash it clean over a couple of hours and they can watch — so we don’t have to buy a new one.”
The core group of refurbishers gathers from 9 a.m.-noon every other Monday plus every Wednesday and includes Jim Hurley, Bill Tibbits, Joe Mirabela, George Hutchinson, Jason Cooper, Kelly McKillip, Gerlinda Scharinger, Rolland Kenitzer, Chuck Jones, Alan Lynn, James Minton and Richard Dietz.
“They all have such eclectic backgrounds — some are ex-Boeing, some are computer professionals, some have trained on how to refurbish computers. This is an amazing group and I’m just so proud and excited that these guys come in every week,” LaMure said.
“Fortunately, I’ve been able to provide a nice facility to them at no cost and it gives them a place to come and interesting, rewarding work to do. I guess the fact that they are all good, caring people helps, too. They spend lots of time and, of course, incur peripheral expenses, but give freely. It’s really a feel-good thing our club is doing,” LaMure said.
Explaining the reconditioning process, LaMure said, “The donated computer is assigned a number, then we wipe the hard disk clean, check the amount the memory and what operating system we can put in it. We add a bigger hard drive and may replace a fan or a DVD player to get it in workable operation. Then we install free programs, like LibreOffice with word processing, spreadsheet and slide-show functions, that make the computer work better like a brand new one without all the junk manufacturers put on new computers.”
Sequim PC Users Group, founded in 1994, considers education a key part of its mission, so at 1 p.m. on Mondays, it holds a computer clinic at the Shipley Center, 921 E. Hammond St., Sequim, where its volunteer techs answer questions one-on-one and can help install malware protection for SPCUG and Shipley Center members. The group has monthly meetings and weekly get-togethers to discuss new and old concerns and things to learn about computers.
Those interested can call the club’s message phone at 360-797-5771 for more information.
“Our objective is making technology a reality for everyone,” LaMure said. “I’m so excited that we’re able to help people in need get what they need to get.”