Hello again and Happy New Year! Here at Free Geek we are back to business as usual after a relaxing holiday season, and we’re excited to take a crack at 2014.
Our first community project of the year is already in full swing, and we’re eager to share it with all of you. Free Geek is working in partnership with the Vancouver Parks Board and Commissioner Sarah Blyth on Cell Phones For Seniors, a campaign which aims to donate cell phones to elderly residents of the DTES, so that they may be able to contact emergency services. The campaign started in December, and has received a wonderful response - Vancouverites have donated over 1500 new and used cell phones to the cause.
What’s our part in all this? The phones, of course! Free Geek will be receiving and processing all the donated cell phones to prepare them for donation to seniors, as well as ethically recycling any phones that don’t make the grade. We’re honoured to have been chosen to help our community in this way.
These boxes are full of phones!
So are these!
Free Geek’s regular operations are still going strong as we process the phones, and we are actively taking on volunteers for the new year. Never volunteered? Keep reading for a rundown on all of Free Geek’s volunteer departments – there are lots of job-applicable skills to be learned and lots of fun to be had, Free Geek style.
Shipping & Receiving
Every laptop, computer, cell phone, mouse, hard drive and power cord that comes into Free Geek starts its journey in Receiving. As a volunteer in this department, you will learn to classify and sort all the items that come through the door. You will also prep certain items for shipment to our downstream recyclers. Keep your eyes peeled for the weird and wonderful, as well as rare tech finds.
Many of the items that Free Geek receives are too old or too broken to be reused. These items are moved into the dismantle department where volunteers take these items apart and separate the various components. Raw materials such as steel, aluminum, copper, plastic, and wires are sorted into bins to be recycled. Computer hardware such as hard drives, RAM, and expansion cards are set aside for further testing.
From receiving, potentially reusable desktop computers move to the Evaluation department. As a volunteer, you will learn to test each computer’s functionality, and decide whether it is suitable for refurbishment, or recycling. This department will also teach you about the inner workings and components of computers. Computers found to be suitable for refurbishment are known as “keepers” and are set aside for builders to work on.
Volunteers in this department test a variety of computer hardware including hard drives, RAM, video cards, network cards, routers, and peripherals. Testing procedures are taught to volunteers who assess the health and functionality of the hardware. Donated hard drives receive extra attention; they’re processed to ensure that any personal data is either physically destroyed or thoroughly erased. All hardware that passes the testing phase can then be reused, donated, or sold in our thrift store.
In this department, volunteers are taught to refurbish “keeper” desktop computers that have passed initial evaluation. This often involves swapping or upgrading components with tested and reusable hardware. To ensure the durability of our computers, volunteers learn how to perform quality control procedures. Fully refurbished computers are either given to our volunteers through our “Adoption Box Program,” donated to community-based organizations through our “Hardware Grants Program,” or sold in our thrift store. In terms of education, this department is a gold mine. Although the work is detailed and challenging, plenty of Free Geek staff and experienced volunteers are on hand to help you as you go.
This department is much like Desktop Build, except that volunteers work on laptops. Working here can be especially challenging, as laptops are smaller in size and quite delicate. And, when something goes wrong, their proprietary nature makes diagnosis and repair more difficult. Nevertheless, determined volunteers with patience and good detective skills can volunteer here.
Much of our refurbished electronics end their journey in the Free Geek thrift store, where we have a need for friendly and helpful sales staff to assist our customers in their purchase decisions. If you are looking for retail experience to pad your resume, or you are a people person wanting to help others find solutions to their tech queries, this is the place for you!
If any of these departments sound like they would suit you, come on down for an orientation and learn more about us. Orientations take place every Wednesday at 4pm, and every Saturday at 2pm and 4pm. An orientation takes about 45 minutes. No need to make an appointment; just come in a few minutes before the hour and let us know you’re there.
Because they are the backbone of our organization, we have decided to pay tribute to Free Geek’s Volunteer of the Month in each blog post. Allow us to introduce you to Stanley, January’s honoree. We asked Stanley to answer a few questions about his time at Free Geek.
How long have you volunteered with Free Geek? What's your department?
3 years. I prepare the motherboards and circuit boards for recycling and then box them for shipping.
What prompted you to start volunteering?
I'm retired, and have been active all my life. I didn't want to sit around my apartment all the time. I found out about Free Geek on the internet.
What has been the best part of your experience at Free Geek?
I've met some new friends here, and learned about the properties of different metals.
Where do you hope to go with the skills and knowledge you have gained?
I'd like to try and build my own computer. I've been looking after my son's old computers, but I'd like to try to work on new ones.
Please tell us anything you'd like to share about your hobbies and interests, other than volunteering.
I look after my son's and his friends computers. I'm hooked on computers. I used to go motorcycle bush riding.
Since joining Free Geek in March 2011, Stanley has committed over 1400 hours of his time to our organization. His long and consistent volunteer record is worthy of recognition– thank you for your dedication, Stanley!
See you all next month! Please be sure to check our blog and social media for updates on events and Free Geek news.
Free Geek Vancouver