Little known non-profit hopes to make big impact through donated technology

Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 4:51 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Boxes of components, worktables and tools, stacks of lap top computers. It looks like a lot of material, and it is. But most of it turns into a basic computer for a senior, disabled veteran, or low-income child who can use it to stay connected or learn more about the world they live in.

“Every home a classroom,” says Ron Norton, CEO of Computer Corps. That’s his motto.

Asked if that is how he views computers? “I do,” he replies without hesitation.

Computer Corps is the brain child of Norton who says he has seen technology change lives.

What started in a Carson City home built in the 1860s; the operation is now in a warehouse where donated computers are assessed.

“I sort the wire, the docking stations, phones boards, number one boards, number two boards,” says Rob Hudson, the Intake Supervisor at Computer Corps. “It’s a lot of stuff.” Hudson says each month he ships out roughly thirty thousand pounds of stuff which won’t end up in a landfill.

And that’s what can’t be repaired or rehabilitated.

Volunteers are trained to work on IT equipment that can be put back in the hands of someone who needs a lap top, phone, or computer.

There’s a stack of lap-top computers which are all Mike Watson’s responsibility. He works on them. They will eventually go to a disabled veteran. As much as the equipment will help someone out, Watson says volunteering here, and learning a skill gave him a new lease on life.

“Living in a hotel room, you know unemployed I had to find something to do, this was it,” says Watson. “I get some sense of worth at the end of the day. We do memory upgrades we do hard drives updates, especially hard drive failings.”

“We test everything,” says Christy Ramsey.

Ramsey is part of another aspect of Computer Corps.

He diagnosis and repairs computers brought in by the general public. Customers usually come in through the front door of the retail shop here on Highway 50 east in Carson City. At the retail store a computer can be had for less than $100 dollars.

“This is for the underserved,” says Carolyn Steiert who is with Computer Corps Retail Sales. “This is for the person who can’t afford the latest and greatest. And doesn’t need the latest and greatest.”

Steiert says families who couldn’t afford an additional computer during COVID came here; as did teachers who purchased a computer for a student or two when learning went remote.

Quality assurance takes place in another building where hard drives are cleared of all information which belonged to the computer’s former owner.

“We go through every machine,” says Anthony Allmon who works in a department called “Data Destruction.” “The hard drives get pulled in and they all run through this process.”

It appears Computer Corps has covered everything from soup to nuts.

Yes, meals are part of volunteering here as well. On the lunch menu today, lasagna and a lemon desert.

Helen Gardner volunteers to cook here every Wednesday.

“The one good thing for seniors; they can come here work for a short time, get a lap top, a free meal and groceries,” says Gardner.

Kathy Orton runs the food bank here where those groceries come from.

“We try every way we can to help people,” says Orton.

With all of this Norton says he still wants more, more computer donations, more sponsorships and partnerships, and yes more volunteers--double the number he has now in fact.

For 91-year-old George Bower there’s nothing more rewarding.

“Oh heavens yes,” says Bower. “No, no I would die of boredom. If I didn’t have this what more could I ask? I have ten thousand pieces of toys to play with.”