Samuel S. Johnson Foundation
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June 13, 2001
Ms. Elizabeth Hill Johnson, President
The Samuel S. Johnson Foundation
P.O. Box 356
Redmond, OR 97756-0079
The technology revolution benefits many, but it also creates two serious problems: Computers manufactured today have a very short life cycle. Large quantities of equipment are deemed obsolete within two years and discarded, potentially leaking toxins into the environment. 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 become obsolete. The City of Portland reported that during their very first neighborhood computer recycling event, held in March, 2000, they obtained close to 5 tons of computer equipment in just 4 hours. Unfortunately, they salvaged none of this equipment for reuse.
Second, many people lack access to the available information resources, effectively cutting them off from participation in the global community. The U.S. Commerce Department reported that households with incomes of $75,000 and higher were over twenty times more likely to have access to the Internet than households at the lowest income levels and nine times more likely to have a computer in the home. Median family income in Portland, Oregon was just $53,700 in 2000.
To address these problems in the Portland metro area, FREE GEEK, Inc. operates the Community Technology Center, where we divert used computer equipment from landfills and provide community members with computers and Internet access. Using a volunteer work force, FREE GEEK performs a best future use analysis on donated computers that ensures the maximum life cycle for working equipment. All non-functioning and obsolete equipment is recycled in an environmentally responsible manner, achieving a 98% material recovery rate. Machines that pass the screening process are refurbished and placed in the care of individuals and local non-profit organizations. FREE GEEK is open to all members of the community. Individuals and local non-profit organizations provide us with a few hours of volunteer labor, sorting and recycling computer donations. In exchange, FREE GEEK trains people to do these tasks and provides them with an Internet-ready computer and an introductory class on its use. We show recipients how to get online and set up e-mail for free. FREE GEEK also provides real job skills training, building and repairing computers, printers and monitors.
Since November of 2000, we have put over 200 Internet-ready computers back into the community while recycling over 20 tons of computer scrap. We estimate that we have diverted in excess of 40 tons of material from landfills to date. FREE GEEK has also started to distribute GEEK Access Point (G.A.P.) computers free of charge to selected local businesses and community centers, allowing them to provide free public Internet access. We currently have three systems located around southeast Portland and plan to install 12 more around the Portland metro area this year.
We are asking for help to fund our education efforts. The FREE GEEK Education Program allows our volunteer teachers to offer computer classes and job training workshops to participants. Our Education Program has been very successful so far, regularly offering three different types of computer user classes, a computer building class and two different kinds of printer repair classes. Over 60 students have participated in the classes to date. The FREE GEEK Education Program is budgeted for $19,650 for 2001, not including the value of in-kind donations. Costs include, salary for an Education Coordinator, operating expenses for a 10-person classroom, with a 12-computer network and the production of education materials.
The total FREE GEEK operating budget for 2001, not including the value of in-kind donations, is $78,300. FREE GEEK has been granted $41,070 from the Oregon State Department of Environmental Quality and $4800 for the City of Portland's Office of Sustainable Development. To date, we have raised $6,895 through donations, sales of FREE GEEK merchandise and the sale of scrap materials from our recycling operation. We estimate that we will make an additional $12,495 this year, for a total of $19,390. We are seeking an additional $8,540 in funding from the Meyer Memorial Trust, for a total projected income of $72,850. We would like the Samuel S. Johnson Foundation to contribute an additional $4,500 to help complete funding for our Education Program through December 31, 2001. Thank you for your time and consideration.
1. Electronic Product Recovery and Recycling Baseline Report: Recycling of Selected Electronic Products in the United States, National Safety Council, 1999.
2. Final Electronics Recycling Report, City of Portland, Office of Sustainable Development, 2000.
3. Falling Through the Net: Toward Digital Inclusion, U.S. Commerce Department, 1999.
4. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2001.