Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Computer Recycler Gives Itself an Upgrade
Not afraid of mice, are you?
Don't be embarrassed to admit it — many people are. Especially senior citizens who have never held a mouse and students who can't afford one.
That's why CREAM — Computer Reuse, Education and Marketing — is offering free computer education classes and a free Internet cafe in central Vancouver. It's there for folks who have never manipulated a computer mouse, traversed the globe via the Internet, or sent anybody an e-mail.
"We want to give free education away," said executive director Oso Martin. "We want you to have a computer, not an expensive paperweight."
On Saturday morning, CREAM unveiled its new digs at 5000 East Fourth Plain Boulevard, alongside Albertsons and the new Habitat for Humanity ReStore, CREAM's partner in keeping decent secondhand stuff out of landfills. ReStore does it with building materials; CREAM, which shares the ReStore's space, does it with computers.
Donated computers arrive at CREAM's workshop and thrift store in the ReStore space. They're tested by volunteers and students from Clark College's vocational training program. The truly hopeless are disassembled and prepared for recycling — CREAM gets 20 percent of its income by selling these recyclables on the market — but computers with a future are refurbished and either handed over to the Salvation Army, which distributes them for free to the needy, or sold for well-below-market prices at the CREAM thrift store. Those computers are loaded up with basic Microsoft software.
CREAM was born nearly a decade ago, according to Jim Mansfield of Clark County Public Works, as the federal government started considering the question of hazardous electronic waste — like mercury, cadmium and lead — in discarded computers. The city of Vancouver and Clark County started discussing ways to recycle electronic waste rather than throwing it away. The first collection brought in enough discarded electronics to fill two 50-foot trailer trucks. The next step, Mansfield said, was seeing how much of it could be returned to use.
"We started wondering, what if we brought together the recycling and re-use sides," he said.
CREAM was born as a county-driven program. And over the next six years, more than 230 computer units were refurbished and given to people who needed them. All told, 4 million pounds of electronic junk was diverted from the waste stream and recycled or returned to use.
Because of changes in state law, CREAM has now spun off as a private nonprofit — working with $330,000 in start-up funding from the city and county, Martin said. It's looking to raise about $50,000 more to keep remodeling its new space — adding an actual classroom, as well as more computers and stipends for instructors. Plus, a big sign.
Martin said there are 100 computers in the CREAM pipeline right now. That's many times CREAM's old rate of processing, he said.
"It's great to see this stuff going out to people who can't afford it," said John Walway, a Clark College student and computer help-desk worker. "If both sides of the fence aren't getting their hands on technology, some are going to get left way behind."
Right now, the education CREAM offers is basic Internet literacy for the mouse-fearing — how to do e-mail, how to move around the World Wide Web, how to post pictures or résumés online.
"Especially for senior citizens who are a little afraid of technology and they're just trying to get over that barrier," he said.
Rory Bowman said the local Macintosh users group, called Apple Van, will begin meeting at CREAM. His mother, Glenna, said she's ready to sign up as an instructor.
Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard said the CREAM program is a winner on many levels. It provides computer training for students and job seekers, a free space for eager learners, and a shot in the arm for the Fourth Plain corridor — one of the city's biggest revitalization targets.
"Right now, not far from here, there are a whole lot of teenagers sleeping," he said. "They're going to find out that they've got access to the whole world right here. What better place to do it?"
Scott Hewitt: 360-735-4525 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Oso Martin at 8:40 PM
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
We're just about ready to ship another 100+ tested CRT monitors to Mercy Corps to assist with their Material Aid program. These monitors are destined for schools in South America, Africa and the Middle East. It feels wonderful to be supporting such great efforts on behalf of those in need.
Posted by Oso Martin at 2:42 PM
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
As more resources become available, we are now able to offer a limited guarantee on purchases made in the thrift store. Parts are now guaranteed for 5 business days. Returns must be accompanied by the original receipt. We will exchange for a similar quality part if available and store credit if not available at the time of return. There are no cash refunds.
Posted by Oso Martin at 1:05 PM
Friday, September 18, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Saturday, Sept. 26 at 10:00am we will be celebrating the opening of the CREAM Education Center and Internet Cafe. Join some of our very supportive elected officials for the ribbon cutting ceremony, see me give a talk about the history and fabulous future of the CREAM program and get a tour of the facility. Refreshments provided and tons of free parking.
Posted by Oso Martin at 2:37 PM
Thursday, September 3, 2009
It's quite strange...the CREAM Internet Cafe is open for day two - and once again, folks are wandering by the windows, reading the "open" signs, peering through the windows...but not actually coming inside and using the Interwebs. 3 people on Tuesday and another one just a few minutes ago. Weird.
Posted by Oso Martin at 4:08 PM