It’s hard to imagine our current world without readily available access to technology. And as electronics continue to evolve to newer models, basements will continue to fill with old, outdated devices.
But one Mason church has found a generous and eco-friendly solution for that clutter.
The Charitable Computing Ministry at St. Susanna Catholic Church was born in September 2017 after an Earth Day drive left the church with hundreds of donated computers needing homes. A plea for help was listed in the weekly bulletin, and one parishioner willingly answered that call.
Marty Klenke, a retired business executive and volunteer SCORE business consultant, co-founded the ministry and created a business plan with a mission for volunteers to provide free computers to local charities within Warren County and the surrounding community. The ministry currently has eight volunteers.
“The program started with the idea that if we could help less fortunate families and kids get access to the software and the tools to better themselves, then that would be a great value that we could provide to the community,” Marty says. “We help people with what we know how to do.”
What They Accept
All Types of Computers
LED monitors (not CRT monitors)
Typically, when donating a computer, the owner will need to utilize a service to wipe the hard drive clean of personal information. According to Marty, the Charitable Computing Ministry is somewhat unique in that they use DBAN software that applies a Department of Defense protocol to secure a clean disk completely free of charge.
Once CCM volunteers clean the disk, the refurbished computer is loaded with Linux, a free, open-source software operating system, which Marty says, “is used on virtually all Cloud computers and supercomputers of the world because it is so fast.
“The code is so tight and so fast that it can run on old machines quite well. It looks and feels a lot like Windows except that it runs a lot faster.”
They also load the computers with a suite of free office software and web tools.
All types of computers and related devices are welcome for donation except for Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitors. Printers and computer accessories donations are also taken. Businesses can also donate unneeded equipment. CCM once received projectors that attach to computers, three of which were shipped to a startup school in Uganda through a local charity.
Volunteers are available to pick up the equipment from a residence or business, provide the donor with a receipt, and then determine on a case-by-case basis if it can be reformatted for donation. Even if the entire computer isn’t viable, usable parts will be removed and the rest will be recycled.
They sometimes call on local businesses to help support their mission. Storm Guard Roofing and Construction of Mason donated wooden pallets for safely storing the donated computers, and Ryan Professional IT Services of West Chester helps them troubleshoot especially difficult computers they're refurbishing.
“I think that one of the main reasons why we jumped on this is for the recycling purpose. If people don’t have a place to bring their electronics, then the easiest thing to do is to toss them, which is not good for our landfills.” –Mary Jo Burns, program sponsor, St. Susanna Catholic Church
According to Mary Jo Burns, the program sponsor for St. Susanna, the ministry has donated a total of 104 computers (both laptops and desktops) to local charities in just the short period of operation.
Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio has received 46 computers, Reach Out Lakota has received 19 computers, a Society of St. Vincent de Paul Conference has received 13 computers, and the rest have gone to local food pantries and miscellaneous charities.
“I think that one of the main reasons why we jumped on this is for the recycling purpose,” Mary Jo says. “If people don’t have a place to bring their electronics, then the easiest thing to do is to toss them, which is not good for our landfills. The other main reason is that so much of our learning depends on having access to a computer no matter the age. It’s 100 percent more difficult if you don’t have one readily available. So, our goal is to put computers into the hands of those people who need them the most.”
Catholic Charities has benefitted the most from this program as it is the only agency serving resettled refugees in the Greater Cincinnati area. Catholic Charities has resettled more than 12,000 refugees since 1980, and the charity resettles approximately 200 refugees a year.
According to Scott Stephens, director of Parish Outreach of Catholic Charities, while there are more than 25 million refugees worldwide, fewer than 1 percent are resettled. Charitable Computing Ministry has been vital to many of the local families in the Refugee Resettlement Program.
“The [resettled refugees] are learning the culture, but then they also learn how computers are a necessity in our culture,” Scott says. “Because they come in with very little income, through this program, we’re able to donate refurbished computers to many of the families that have been resettled in Cincinnati. Probably the biggest impact is that the kids have to do schoolwork and the adults are job searching and building resumes.”
Catholic Charities holds computer classes for its refugees, and upon completion, participants receive a donated laptop from the Charitable Computing Ministry. Each computer also includes a folder with documents and training videos that Marty and the team created to help new users get acclimated to and make the most of the computers.
If you would like to donate a computer to help the Charitable Computing Ministry, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact CCM’s Donation Line at 513.668.7483. If you are working in a local charity and would like to learn more about obtaining refurbished computers, please contact Mary Jo Burns at 513.398.3821.