PART I. THE ORGANIZATION
The technology revolution benefits many, but it also creates two serious problems. First, computers manufactured today have a very short life cycle. Large numbers of computers are deemed obsolete within two years and discarded. The National Safety Council reported that during 1997 more than 20 million computers reached obsolescence and only 11% were recycled or reused. At the current rate, by the year 2005, 350 million machines will have become obsolete. Traditional methods of disposal of computer equipment have resulted in releasing dangerous toxins such as lead, chromium and mercury into the environment.1 In 2000, Oregon generated 46,353 tons of computer and electronic waste (e-waste) but only 1.33% was recovered.2 In 2002, the Metro region generated 4,597 tons of e-waste and recovered only 16%. Reuse and responsible recycling is the best process for the environment, capable of recovering over 99% of the materials for reuse. Without recycling, this discarded technology often ends up in landfills where the resulting accumulation of toxic/hazardous waste will create potentially disastrous results for the environment.
The second problem stemming from advances in computer technology is that many people lack even the most basic computer skills. This can deny them access to everything from getting on the Internet to getting a better job. In 1999 the U.S. Commerce Department reported that households with incomes of $75,000 and higher were twenty times more likely to have access to the Internet than households at the lowest income levels and nine times as likely to have a computer in the home. In 2000, the median income of a family of four in the Portland area was $53,7003, below the national average of $62,228.4 These technological advances are only going to accelerate in the coming years, resulting in more people being left behind.
The concept behind Free Geek is to use these problems to solve each other. A significant portion of computers bound for the landfills can be refurbished into working starter computers for those who cannot otherwise afford them. Individuals with little or no disposable income can be trained to help process the diverted computers for reuse or recycling, receiving one of the refurbished computers in exchange for their efforts. The result is less computer equipment in the landfills and more equipment being reused. In addition, a wide range of people get access to computers and the Internet that previously could not; a win, win situation for everyone involved, which is summed up in the Free Geek mission statement:
Free Geek recycles used technology to provide computers, education, job skills training and access to the Internet to those in need, in exchange for community service.
HISTORY OF THE ORGANIZATION
Free Geek was founded by the current Administrative Coordinator, Oso Martín, in February of 2000. He saw a need in the community for access to no-cost or low-cost computer technology. Oso further learned that the large amounts of electronic waste going into Portland's landfills were becoming an increasing problem, and that much of the computer hardware being tossed away was still usable. He was sure these computers could be set up to perform Internet, word processing, and other basic computing functions. Oso envisioned a non-profit organization that would serve two needs in the community at the same time: recycling electronic waste and helping to bridge the digital divide. And so, Free Geek was born.
Jim Deibele, founding board member and CEO and founder of Teleport, provided financial support to fund an exploratory venture to test the Free Geek concept. A series of workshops were conducted at Portland State University to create the mission statement and bylaws, as well as to recruit board members. Soon after, the Community Technology Center was established. This serves as a central location for donated hardware to be dropped off and processed. It also provides a place where volunteers can work together, sharing their knowledge and experience. A 5,000 SF office/warehouse space was located in inner SE Portland. Free Geek moved in and sent out word to the community that we were looking for volunteers. From the very start, computer enthusiasts and others saw the potential of the idea and quickly formed a core volunteer group that would begin to develop the technology needed to run the operation efficiently and at the lowest possible cost.
The Community Technology Center opened in September 2000 and soon after, several articles appeared in the local media and quickly spread the word about Free Geek. Donated hardware began flooding in. So did the volunteers, from all walks of life and with widely varied backgrounds; from computer industry professionals wanting to lend a helping hand, to laid off workers looking to trade their free time for a refurbished computer. People from all over the Portland area were attracted to the program.
In just four years, Free Geek has tripled in physical size, while growing it's budget ten-fold. Free Geek has gone from an experiment to a viable organization with a proven track record. Free Geek was recognized as a Founder of a New Northwest by Sustainable Northwest in May of 2003. We are regularly sought out by elected officials, government agencies and recycling advocates asking our advice and guidance on how to deal with the growing problems of electronic waste and bridging the digital divide. Free Geek participates as a non-profit stakeholder on the Oregon State Legislature Electronic Product Stewardship Advisory Committee.
In the past year, several nascent organizations around the country have been inquiring about how they can build on the work we have started. To that end, Free Geek is encouraging and supporting a sister project in the mid-west. This group, dubbed Free Geek-Michiana5, has begun operations in South Bend, Indiana using software and documentation that we have developed. In Lancaster County Pennsylvania, Free Geek Penn6, is just under way. Other groups are starting to use our tools in Seattle, Washington, and Toronto, Canada. We receive several inquires every month from around the world, wondering how this work can be replicated. Free Geek does everything we can do to help by making all of our software, documentation and procedures available for free.
PRIMARY FREE GEEK PROGRAMS
Free Geek's central location is a convenient place for individuals, organizations and small businesses to recycle computer equipment. By accepting all computer equipment, in any condition, we make the choice of where to go to dispose of computers a simple one. Everyone who drops off computers for recycling is offered a guided tour of the facility and is shown how the program works and what happens to the donated equipment. We then ask for a voluntary cash donation to support our program. Approximately two-thirds of our customers need to dispose of monitors. Free Geek charges a $10 disposal fee for any and all monitors dropped off at our facility. In addition to the required monitor fees, over half of all recycling customers make a voluntary financial contribution in appreciation for the work they see being done to protect the environment and to help others. Computer donations are the exclusive source of computer hardware for both Free Geek's infrastructure and the equipment provided back to the community. As part of the recycling process, non-repairable and obsolete equipment is broken down into its base materials such as steel, aluminum, and copper. These commodities are then sold on the open market through our recycling partners. Sale of recycled materials provides a significant income stream to support operations.
Free Geek's flagship program, the Adoption program, enables individuals to exchange work in our recycling operation for a starter computer system of their very own. During their time at Free Geek, volunteers are exposed to computers on several different levels. volunteers work in three basic areas, receiving, recycling and testing. In receiving they learn to identify hardware and become familiar with the use of the mouse and keyboard. In recycling, volunteers learn about how the various pieces fit together and come apart. Testing teaches the volunteers how to insert and remove various components from the computer and how to run diagnostic software. After completing 24 hours of work, volunteers receive their computer and a introductory class on how to set it up and use it.
One of the more technically demanding programs, the Build program creates all the computers needed for our other programs. Volunteers are taught how to build computers working exclusively with used parts. The tested hardware is assembled into standardized desktop computers that are then loaded with an operating system and applications software. Each system passes a quality control test before it released to an adopter. Volunteers agree to complete six computer systems in exchange for the training in how to do it. After completing six systems, volunteers are welcome to keep the sixth computer for themselves. The remaining five computers are distributed into the community through our Adoption and Computers for Kids and Hardware Grants programs.
The education program began with the notion that "If we give someone their first computer, we need to teach them how to use it." The introductory classes are the core of a curriculum that has been expanded to include computer building, Linux command line basics and advanced computer programing languages such as Perl and Python. Volunteer teachers work together to organize classes, as well as documenting all of Free Geek's procedures to help train volunteers and volunteers working in any area. Education is ongoing for volunteers and volunteers from the moment they enter Free Geek, to long after they receive their computers and have it set up in their homes. We believe that everyone has something to learn and everyone has something to teach. The education program focuses that energy to provide the latest in computer skills development for an extremely low cost. Volunteering time, taking classes and the hands on experience with computers are also excellent resume builders for computer professionals looking to increase their chances for employment.
COMPUTER THRIFT STORE
Free Geek receives more equipment than can be refurbished efficiently. In addition, the equipment donated does not arrive in equal amounts (i.e. approximately 10 good keyboards are donated for every usable computer). This surplus equipment and other donations that have some retail value but do not meet other program requirements, are sold through the Free Geek Computer Thrift Store. Monitors, printers, keyboards, cables and speakers are among the many items available in the store. This ensures that working, usable equipment gets back into circulation, rather than being broken down for raw materials recovery. Free Geek also sells various products such as t-shirts, mugs, stickers and crafts made from recycled computer parts. The thrift store is a vital part of the Free Geek financial strategy for self-sufficiency.
The Free Geek Collaborative Technology Project provides needs assessment, network infrastructure, data conversion and on-site training for administrators and end users to facilitate the conversion from proprietary software to Open Source Software. By showing non-profit organizations how to utilize Open Source software, Free Geek empowers them to maximize their technology resources, potentially saving them hundreds of thousands of dollars in hardware and software upgrades. Free Geek provides theses services to non-profits on a sliding scale based on ability to pay.
COMPUTERS FOR KIDS
Computers for Kids is a partnership with mentored at-risk youth programs such as those operated by the Boys and Girls Club and the YWCA. The program taps into the energy generated by both the adoption and computer building programs. Time slots are set aside for the program participants between the ages of 11 and 18. Staff and volunteers help to guide them through a somewhat abbreviated version of either the Adoption or Build programs, dependent on age group. Each participant receives a computer system and a class on how to use it. Additional family members are asked to take the class with the students to better integrate the computer into the home. Computers for Kids is sponsored by Computer Bits Magazine, a local monthly resource for the computing community, giving the project an excellent outreach resource for recruiting volunteer computer builders and teachers.
SECONDARY FREE GEEK PROGRAMS
NON-PROFIT HARDWARE GRANTS
Non-profit organizations can receive computer equipment for free or at an extremely reduced cost. We generally focus on local organizations and are granting about 20 requests a month. We recently had an opportunity to partner with the World Computer Exchange (WCE) and help the Portland based humanitarian aid organization Mercy Corps. Free Geek provided computer equipment for shipment to schools around the world to help bridge the global technology divide. We have helped send computer systems to Ecuador and are working on projects to send equipment to Argentina, Bolivia, Ghana, Macedonia and Nigeria. In 2003, Free Geek established a short grants process for non-profits to apply for hardware help from Free Geek. Assistance will be granted based on need and other factors to be determined by staff and the board of directors. In addition, Free Geek reserves all donated Apple computer equipment for transfer to a partner program called Mac Renewal, a Eugene, Oregon based organization run by Lorraine Kerwood. She is able to use the majority of the Apple/Macintosh architecture based equipment, refurbishing it and giving it to low income families, elders and the disabled. See Appendix A for a list of non-profit organizations to whom Free Geek has provided technology assistance.
GEEK ACCESS POINTS (GAP)
Free Geek provides the hardware and technical support for several free Internet access terminals in Southeast Portland. Our current locations are at Resource Conservation Credit Union at 1910 SE 11th Avenue, The Red & Black Café at 2138 SE Division Street and the Back to Back Café at 628 E Burnside. Free Geek offers this service to community minded organizations and businesses that provide free public access to the computer and the Internet.
Volunteers can learn how to repair and refurbish printers. This program refurbishes both inkjet and laser printers, making them available for adoption or sale in the thrift store. Printers that are beyond our expertise to repair are parted out for our own repair program or are sold to printer remanufacturing companies. Inkjet cartridges are removed from all printers and evaluated. Good cartridges are used in the repaired printers or sold in the thrift store. Bad and empty cartridges are sold to cartridge remanufactures. The program also evaluates and repairs non-computer related consumer electronics such as fax machines, stereos, VCRs and telephones. Repaired and tested electronics are sold in the Free Geek Thrift Store.
RECYCLED COMPUTER CRAFTS
Free Geek creates and sells crafts made from recycled computer parts. Selected items from the salvage process are separated out. Volunteers then craft the various objects into several different products. Our most popular item is a wind chime made from obsolete hard drive platters. We also make magnetic computer chip broaches and RAM chip key chains. Artists and craftspersons from the Portland metropolitan area come to Free Geek to rummage through our scrap materials for inspiration and raw materials. Artists pay equivalent market rates for the materials they acquire.
Free Geek sponsors an annual Geek Fair fund raiser. This year's fair is an all day block party on Saturday, August 21st . The event will be held on the block that the Free Geek Community Technology Center fronts and will feature information booths from several local organizations, live music, food and refreshments, a sidewalk sale and a raffle. The event is regularly cosponsored by KBOO 90.7 Community Radio, The City Repair Project, Southeast Uplift Neighborhood Program, Hosford-Abernathy Neighborhood District (HAND) and Computer Bits Magazine.
REUSE AND RECYCLING CONSULTING SERVICES
FREE GEEK provides computer recycling and reuse consulting services at a very competitive rate. Free Geek is consulted for the CREAM (Computer REuse And Marketing) Project, a partnership of Clark County Solid Waste Management, the Salvation Army and Clark College. Free Geek provided refurbishing and reuse training to faculty and students at Clark College. In addition, we are helping to inform the recycling end of the program, showing the best methods for disassembly of electronic waste and responsible marketing of the salvaged materials.
E-WASTE DIALOGUES AND INITIATIVES
Free Geek participates as a stake holder in the EPA funded, WEPSI (Western Electronic Product Stewardship Initiative) process. WEPSI is a working group of computer and electronics manufacturers, industrial electronics recyclers, local and regional governments and non-government organizations (NGOs). The final action plan7 was published in the fall of 2003. WEPSI is a sub-group of NEPSI (National Electronic Product Stewardship Initiative) which is in its final stages.
OREGON STATE LEGISLATURE
ELECTRONIC PRODUCT STEWARDSHIP ADVISORY COMMITTEE
Free Geek is present as member of the Oregon Electronic Product Stewardship Advisory Committee (EPSAC). Chaired by State Representative, Jackie Dingfelder, the committee is tasked to explore workable solutions to the growing e-waste problem in the state of Oregon and present the findings to the Oregon Legislature in the Fall of 2004. One solution that is being discussed is based on replicating versions of the Free Geek Community Technology Center statewide.
FREE GEEK PEOPLE
THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Lewis Barr, Director
Lewis is a corporate attorney with substantial in-house transactional experience, law firm litigation experience, and significant experience working for federal judges. He has expertise in intellectual property, contract, and employment issues.
Brent Campbell, President
Brent is currently the systems administrator for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. He has worked in both technical and managerial positions at technology companies such as Abacus Computers and Symantec. Educated at Oregon State University, Brent has also worked in Kenya with the Peace Corps.
Dennis Bridges, Director
Dennis has almost 20 years of experience in the printing industry including 7 years as an environmental engineer. He is also certified as a Six Sigma Quality and Process Improvement Consultant. Dennis is currently the publisher and editor of Computer Bits magazine.
Michele Brooks, Director
Michele has over 15 years of organizational development experience. She holds a Masters of Science degree in organizational development from Pepperdine University. She has been facilitating meetings and consulting with non-profit organizations since 1996. She is particularly devoted to issues of sustainability, community building and environmentalism.
Kimberly McClain, Director
Kimberly is a dedicated community activist, Chairperson of the Montavilla Neighborhood Association in SE Portland and a board member of SE Uplift Neighborhood Coalition. Kimberly was a recent recipient of a Spirit of Portland Award.
Mark Niemann-Ross, Secretary
Mark is the Third-Party Developer Evangelist for Adobe Systems. He has worked for all of the major graphic arts software companies, including Quark, and Extensis. He teaches a beginning programming class at the Metropolitan Learning Center.
Free Geek employs 13 staff members with schedules ranging from 32 hrs/week to 10 hrs/week. The staff functions as a collective, using a modified consensus model for decision making. All staff are paid the same hourly rate. Staff working over 15 hrs/week are eligible for participation in the health care plan. Current staff positions are:
Administrative Coordinator – Business administration, program development, outreach and fund raising.
Production Coordinator – Build program logistics, Open Source Software and data base development.
Education Coordinator – Documentation, volunteer teacher coordination, curriculum development.
Volunteer Coordinator – Intern recruitment and supervision, volunteer placement and follow-up.
Operations Coordinator – Daily operations manager in receiving and testing areas.
Build Co-Coordinators (2) – Build instruction, curriculum development, technical support.
Collaborative Technologies Coordinator – Non-profit organization Open Source conversion projects.
Recycling Coordinator – E-waste management, deconstruction training and supervision.
Sales Coordinator – Thrift store management, pricing guidelines and sales policies.
Front Desk Coordinator – Volunteer intake, scheduling and hours, drop-off donation transactions.
Printer Coordinator – Printer refurbishing and resale management. Printer repair training.
Computers for Kids – Program development and outreach, partnership development.
Internships funded by Free Geek
Free Geek funds several short term interns (3 to 6 months), targeting individuals that have barriers to employment that could be helped by having some real job experience. Free Geek hopes that working an internship at the Community Technology Center will provide a opportunity for personal growth and experience.
Internships from outside programs
Free Geek works with local organizations and schools to provide interesting opportunities for individuals and students to fulfill job training, educational and community service requirements. Free Geek has approximately 6 active interns from outside programs at any time.
The following groups are the major groups that have regular meetings or perform defined tasks.
Administrators of Systems & Security - The original core group of volunteers, this group maintains our very sophisticated computer network and infrastructure. Like everything else, our network is constructed with donated hardware and volunteer energy. Our network is extremely secure and it provides an excellent example for volunteers that wish to learn about networks and network administration.
Adopters – Adopters are volunteers who come to Free Geek to earn a computer for themselves. Adopters perform 24 hours of community service, helping Free Geek by performing data entry, testing and recycling tasks. In exchange, participants receive a stater computer and an orientation class.
Builders – Builders come to Free Geek to learn the ins and outs of computer assembly and trouble shooting. The program is free and is open to anyone at any skill level. Many builders stay on after they complete the program and help out as volunteer instructors or assistants. Volunteers provide Tier II technical support on Freek Box Computer systems. Participants in the build program feel a sense of accomplishment as each computer system they create goes to a person or organization in need.
Coders - Programming professionals volunteer to teach the latest computer languages to interested volunteers. Volunteers can then contribute to the many custom software applications that are developed to streamline and organize all operations. Free Geek software projects are structured like real world jobs, and participating volunteers get credit for being part of the software development team. It is an excellent resumé builder for volunteers. At the same time Free Geek gets quality, custom software designed and implemented for almost no cost.
Council - Made up of board members, staff and volunteers, the Council provides a forum for individuals to participate in guiding Free Geek as the organization continues to grow and evolve. Membership is open to all and all decisions are made using a consensus process.
Fund Raising - Volunteers bring many talents to the table, from grant writing to retail sales experience. The fund raising group works to help ensure that Free Geek has the resources that it needs to keep operating and expanding to meet the needs of the community. Fund raising also organizes special events such as our annual Geek Fair.
Hardware Grants – Made up of staff and volunteers, the Hardware Grants group allocates resources to fulfill hardware grant requests for non-profits. Membership is open to those individuals that wish to help guide projects through the system.
During the initial start-up phase of Free Geek, a few articles in the local media resulted in an avalanche of donations and more volunteers than we had the capacity for. We quickly developed a waiting list that was over three months long. Subsequently, Free Geek did not have an aggressive outreach campaign during the first few years.
During this time period we limited ourselves to our website and tabling at community events such as Earth Day and The Procession of the Species. In addition, Free Geek is listed in the Portland Green Map, the ReDirect Guide (a phone book for environmentally conscious businesses), the Metro Recycling Hot line and the Solid Waste and Recycling web sites for the cities of Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington and the Oregon State Department of Environmental Quality. In the first quarter of 2004, the Free Geek website8 is receiving an average of over 14,000 unique visitors every month.
Free Geek has experienced a consistent and impressive customer and participant growth rate over the last four years. All with minimal advertising. Free Geek anticipates that there will be a need for a marketing/outreach effort in the coming months. To this end we are seeking funding for a Marketing Outreach Coordinator from a variety of sources, but it remains a low priority at this time.
SUCCESS TO DATE
HOW SUCCESS IS MEASURED
Free Geek's volunteer designed database allows easy tracking of success in both categories. Every significant donated computer component is cataloged into the database. The current status of all donated equipment is tracked and reported monthly. Each of Free Geek's commercial recycling partners provides us with weight reports for processed and recovered materials. These totals are included in our monthly reports. Free Geek tracks the number of classes provided, the number of students, the number of client hours donated, the number of equipment donors, and how many computers are placed back into the community though the adoption program or though sales in the thrift store. In addition, Free Geek tracks the number of visitors to the website, providing a good indication of the success of our outreach efforts.
Since opening our doors in September of 2000 we have accepted the donation of over 150,000 computers and computer components. In the process we have recycled over 360 tons of electronic scrap, recovering the metals and plastics. Volunteers have refurbished over 3,000 computer systems, that are back in use in the community. We have also tested and redistributed an additional 17,000 components and peripheral devices. Over 3,500 volunteers have participated, donating over 75,000 hours of community service.
AWARDS AND RECOGNITION
In February of 2004, Free Geek's Administrative Coordinator, Oso Martín, was asked to serve on the Oregon State Legislature's Electronic Waste Stewardship Advisory Committee (EPSAC). The committee is tasked with finding a solution to the growing e-waste problem in Oregon. Free Geek provides the perspective of a non-profit/reuse organization. The Free Geek Community Technology Center model is being considered as one possible state wide solution.
In November of 2002, Free Geek was named a Founder of the New Northwest by Sustainable Northwest. They recognize leadership in sustainable business and economic practices in the northwestern United States9. Free Geek was profiled in a book published by Sustainable Northwest in May 2003. Free Geek received the award at the 2003 Sustainability Forum awards banquet.
In June of 2001, Free Geek's Administrative Coordinator, Oso Martín, was presented an E-chievment Award from the National Public Radio program, E-Town, in recognition of his work to make "a positive difference in his community and beyond"10.
PART II. THE PROGRAM EXPANSION PROJECT
The Free Geek Expansion Project is needed so that Free Geek can better address several growing needs in the Portland Metropolitan area. The expansion project also addresses the long term health and sustainability of Free Geek.
The expansion project has been in the planning stages since 2001, and fund raising since 2002. Thanks to generous grants from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality ($20,000) and the Meyer Memorial Trust ($32,500), we are on track, fully funded and nearing completion of Phase One.
We are almost three-quarters funded for Phase Two (MMT - $109,410), but we still need to raise the remaining $39,405 grant fund raising goal for Phase Two. Free Geek is requesting $39,405 from the Collins Foundation for that purpose.
We have raised $12,000 (MMT) to date for Phase Three and we are in the process of requesting $15,000 from the Juan Young Trust and $5,000 from the Templeton Foundation to meet the remaining goal of $20,000.
Free Geek exceeded our own projections on the amount of electronic waste the facility would recycle in 2001 by more than 150%, pushing our capacity to its absolute limit. Given our space restrictions at the time, we knew this problem was only going to get worse. Lack of capacity to keep up with the donation stream could lead to enforcing restrictions on the types of equipment that we can accept during daily operations. Restricted drop off of computers would diminish the number of environmentally friendly options for the public to discard of unwanted equipment. In addition, Free Geek was maintaining a waiting list that was over a month long for people to participate in the Adoption program. Build workshops were often booked over three weeks in advance, and any specialized classes offered through the education program were filled to capacity and many times potential students were turned away for lack of space.
Long Term Sustainability
In order to maximize the cost effectiveness of volunteer and client supervision, the staff worked part time for wages that are far below market rate and had no health benefits. Everyone on the staff collectively agreed to sacrifice income for the continued growth of the organization during the start-up phase. This sacrifice has enabled Free Geek to make it through this period within our financial means. However, for the long term health and sustainability of the organization, the staff needed a living wage and reasonable health benefits. To this end, Free Geek is expanding general operations and consulting services to increase the amount of self-generated income to the point of self reliance.
The Free Geek Program Expansion project is designed to make our organization sustainable. Through a series of measured steps, we are increasing efficiency and capacity, while at the same time creating living wage jobs for our dedicated staff. At the end of the project, Free Geek will be self-sufficient, and will be in a position to continue to grow as needed within our own means.
Facility Expansion – increasing capacity for all major programs by improving the existing facility, adding additional classroom space, expanding recycling, production space and the thrift store.
Fund raising goal: $ 52,500 Grant Funds Raised: $ 52,500 (100%) Project Status: 90% Complete (Completion 09/04)
Long Term Capacity Building - stabilizing and expanding our current programs to take advantage of increased facilities and increase revenue generation to the point of self-reliance.
Fund raising goal: $148,815 Grant funds raised: $109,410 (74%) Requested funds: $ 39,405 (Collins Foundation) Project Status: 60% Complete (Completion due 09/05)
Programs Expansion - funding two new projects that will help distribute the increased production of refurbished computer systems in ways that increase both our impact on the local community and our income stream.
- Collaborative Technology Project - Provides consulting services so that local non-profits can access to Open Source technology and training, reducing their technology costs.
Fund raising goal: $12,000 Grant funds raised: $12,000 (100%) Project Status: 35% Complete (Completion due 09/05)
- Computers For Kids - Provides computers and education to "At-risk" youth in the Portland Metropolitan Area.
Fund raising goal: $20,000 Grant funds raised: $ 0 (0%) Funding Status: 0% Funded Project Status: 15% Complete (Completion due 06/05)
Free Geek has secured funding from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the Meyer Memorial Trust to expand our existing 10,000 SF facility. The expansion project provides for modifications to the existing building to make the space more fully functional. Once the basic modifications were finished the various programs started to expand, taking advantage of the more efficient layout.
During the course of the project, an adjacent 5,000 SF of office/warehouse space became available. A re-evaluation of the design was performed and it was decided to rent the space and reduce the amount of new construction. The additional space also allowed for the addition of several new functions within the available budget. Changes to the plan and reallocation of project funding has been approved by the both of the project funders (Oregon DEQ and Meyer Memorial Trust).
CONSTRUCTION PROJECT STATUS
Relocate and expand receiving area - Complete Relocate and expand recycling area - Complete Expand testing areas - Complete Relocate and expand build workshop areas - Complete Create new connecting doors to warehouse - Complete Relocate and expand thrift store - Complete Construct new classroom space - 75% Construct new workspace for Collab Project - Complete Construct new office and administrative support space - Complete Relocate and expand server room - 10% Remodel old server room into Collab Project office - 0% Construct new bathroom - Complete Remodel staff lounge/kitchen - 50% Construct public Internet access area - 5% Remodel meeting room - 50% Construct multi-purpose space - 60% Purchase warehouse shelving - Complete Purchase forklift - Complete
LONG TERM CAPACITY BUILDING
Long Term Capacity Building is designed to increase the overall through-put capacity of the Free Geek Community Technology Center. By hiring enough staff to coordinate the vast array of volunteers, the main income streams of Salvage, Processing Fees and the Thrift Store can be increased to the point of fully supporting the costs of operations. In order to keep the staff spirited and healthy, a wage increase and health care provision has been factored into the costs of maintaining a sustainable organization.
Staff compensation has been increased to a more reasonable level, and a basic health care and vision plan is now available to those working more than 15 hours a week. Another pay increase and the addition of a dental plan is scheduled for the third quarter of 2004. Staffing levels have been increased to better utilize the donation and volunteer resources available. Grants funds are allocated to help make up the difference in staff costs during the expansion phase. Once the expansion phase is complete, Free Geek will be self-sustaining, with a reasonable cash reserve and employees earning a living wage with health care benefits.
To date the increased income from the sale of salvaged materials, cash donations, disposal fees and sales in the thrift store is meeting or running ahead of projections. Additional income from rental of the new classroom/meeting spaces has yet to be realized.
The Adoption and Build programs have increased capacity, offering double the number of classes available just 6 months ago. Build is now producing a significant excess of computer systems that are being giving to non-profit organizations through our hardware grants program (www.freegeek.org/grants.php).
Free Geek has secured funding to expand two projects that were not funded prior to this point in time. The projects take advantage of excess computer production from the Build a Computer program in ways that further the Free Geek mission. Free Geek plans to use the computers locally to help in two identified areas of need: Non-profit technology assistance and education opportunities for at-risk youth.
The Collaborative Technology Project
The Free Geek Collaborative Technology Project provides needs assessment, network infrastructure, data conversion and on-site training for administrators and end users. By showing non-profit organizations how to utilize Open Source software, Free Geek will empower them to maximize their technology resources, potentially saving them tens of thousands of dollars in hardware and software upgrades. Free Geek will provide theses services to non-profits on a sliding scale based on ability to pay. Profits from fees charged to well funded non-profits will go to provide services to under-funded and struggling non-profits.
The Computers for Kids Project
Computers for Kids taps into the energy generated by the Build a Computer and education programs. Excess computers from the build workshops are placed with at risk youth in the Portland Metro Area. Kids are selected to receive assistance with assistance from Youth Investment Services of Multnomah County. Computers for Kids is sponsored by Computer Bits Magazine, a local monthly resource for the computing community, giving the project an excellent outreach resource for recruiting volunteer computer builders and teachers.
PROJECT GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
Free Geek continuously strives to better serve the community by refining its operations to carry out its mission as cost effectively as possible. Free Geek sees financial independence as a crucial part of that mission.
For Free Geek, the goal of self sustainability is within reach. By increasing capacity to provide greater service to the community this goal will be met. With help from the Collins Foundation, the continued implementation of our program expansion will allow Free Geek to meet the goals originally set forth on October 2002:
- Increase overall capacity by 300%
- Increase revenue by 250%
- Increase computer production by 250%
- Expand education capacity by 250%
- Achieve financial independence by the beginning of the 4th Quarter of 2005.
PROJECT PROGRESS REPORT
To date, the Free Geek Program Expansion Project is on track and meeting the goals that were originally set forth in October of 2002. The main goals of expanding the capacity of the Recycling, Adoption, Build and Thrift Store programs has been accomplished and we are beginning to see the fruits of our labor. Free Geek's income streams have all increased as predicted or slightly higher, potentially advancing the date when we expect to be self-sustaining by 3 months.
Free Geek has raised more than half of our fund raising goal of $238,405. With the $164,370 in grant money awarded to date the following projects are currently under way:
Phase I - The Facility Expansion Project: 100% funded and nearing completion. Major areas of completion: Recycling, Testing, Build, Warehouse and Thrift Store. Major areas nearing completion: Class Room, Internet Café. Major areas not substantially underway: Server Room.
Phase II - Longterm Capacity Building: 53% funded and performing as well or better than expected. Staffing levels have been increased to full capacity, the first wage increase has been implemented and a health care plan has been added to the employee benefits package.
Phase III - Program Expansion: 50% funded, with high expectations of meeting the fund raising goals in the coming quarter. Collaborative Technologies is under way, working on our first contract. Collab is implementing a new medical records database and and other critical IT infrastructure for Home Street, a community mental health organization in Hillsboro, Oregon. Several other contracts have been signed with work scheduled to commence in the next few months. Computers for Kids is not yet funded, but we have hired a part-time coordinator to start organizing pilot partnerships as well as help to meet the fund raising goal. So far, the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Portland Metro Area and the Portland YWCA has sent groups of kids through the program, helping us to develop the curriculum.