It’s official! Last week we received a letter from the IRS stating that Free Geek Twin Cities is now a formally recognized 501c3 non-profit charity. This means that donations to FGTC are tax-deductible. Since we received the certification in 2011, any donations made this year can be deducted, not just those made going forward. This certification will enable us to work with businesses and other groups that might not otherwise donate their old computers to us if we weren’t a “formal” non-profit.
Kitty, one of our regular volunteers, lives in Edina. As part of the Edina Day of Service, she organized a “Donate your old computer to Free Geek Twin Cities” dropoff in the parking lot of Jerry’s Foodssupermarket. The weather was perfect, but we had no idea if anyone would show up. Well, the good folks of Edina really came through for us. We received over 50 desktop machines, more than 20 laptops, and about 20 flatscreens. We filled two minivans and an SUV with all the donations. A hearty thanks to Kitty and the people of Edina.
Ka Joog will use the computers in their youth community center which they’ve built as place for high school and college kids to hang out, providing a safe, positive atmosphere.
Meanwhile, our recycle, test, and build operations are in full swing.
Volunteers break computers down to their base materials to be recycled. In the background, computers and components are evaluated in the Test room.
In fact, we’ve gotten to be such a well-oiled-machine in our ability to receive, dismantle, test, and rebuild computers that we are actually running a bit low on fodder for our pipeline. So, we need YOU to dig that old computer out of the closet and bring it to Free Geek where we’ll put it to good use teaching people about computers and helping groups like Ka Joog build a stronger community.
On August 1 we had our first pickup of recyclable materials at our new location. Waste Management/Recycle America sent a truck which took away seven pallets of plastic, CRTS, hard drives (all spiked!), circuit boards, and various other sorted components. We just got the report back from WM/RA and the grand total was 1976 pounds! That’s right, we shipped almost a ton of recycling, keeping a whole bunch of toxins and precious metals out of landfills.
Our last shipment had been in April, in preparation for the garage sale and the move. Considering that we didn’t do any recycling work in May because of those events, nor for a week or two after the move while we settled in, it appears we generate a ton of recycling about every twelve weeks. Plus, we recovered enough valuable materials in the process to not only pay for the truck to come pickup the materials (in the past we’ve hauled it ourselves), but even had a bit of credit left over.
Having the space for pallets and gaylord boxes has been a godsend. Without it, we wouldn’t have been able to scale up our recycling as we have. We really are moving along now.
If you haven’t seen our new site, come visit us, and we’ll show you our great new recycling area, where we are making “a ton” of difference.
Now that we have a space of our own, we have expanded our hours:
Edit (I made an edit in June, 2012 to add two more days, Thur & Fri we are open for store purchases and donation drop-offs). Oohh! We moved again too so the address in this archival photo is wrong) – Art
- Wednesday, Noon – 5pm
- Thursday, Noon – 5pm
- Friday, Noon – 5pm
- Saturday, Noon – 5pm
- Sunday, Noon – 5pm
- Closed Monday & Tuesday
We’re still unpacking a bit and deciding where things should go. But our teardown and recyling have resumed, and we’ll soon be ready to start up our build program again. So, if Saturdays haven’t worked for you in the past, you can now come join us on a couple of other days, and help the needy get nerdy. See you there.
A couple months ago, we concluded that we were outgrowing our space at PPNA and that we would have to move. Then, PPNA told us they were selling the building and that we had to be out in three weeks. With help from Seward Redesign we found a new space at 2310 Snelling Ave. South in Minneapolis, sometimes known as Seward Commons. May 14 was our moving day.
The new building is between Hiawatha and Minnehaha Avenues, right next to the bike trail on Hiawatha, and just three blocks south of the Franklin Ave. light rail stop.
Our new space has over 2000 square feet, about 25% more than we had at PPNA, and we’re very excited about that. While we did like the fact that multiple groups shared the space with us at PPNA, it did impose limits such as how many days we could be open. We’ll have the new space largely to ourselves. There are some other community groups storing stuff in the space currently, but they’ll be moving to the garage/warehouse out back in the next few weeks. We hope to expand our hours in the coming months.
It will take us a few weeks to get everything arranged in our new home. We had some donated shelving arrive while we were moving; it turned out to be too tall for the new space, so we’ll have to shorten it a bit.
The new space offers us great opportunities, but it can’t be our long-term permanent home. Seward Redesign plans to eventually raze the whole building and redevelop the space. However, our lease says that won’t happen for at least six months, and it’s possible that it may not happen for a year or two. That suits us just fine. Free Geek Twin Cities is a hive of bustling activity; we’re always busy doing many things, constantly growing. The number of new volunteers showing up each week continues to increase. The space at PPNA lasted us about a year before we outgrew it. It’s likely we’ll outgrow Seward Commons in a year as well. It’s a good problem to have.
So, come see our new digs. Come donate your old computer. Come learn about computers. Come help us teach people about computers. Come help us recycle responsibly. Come make a difference in the community.
We had our second garage sale on May 6-8 and it was a great success, bringing over $1000 into our coffers.
We’d spent the weeks leading up to it prepping extra machines from our Build Program, testing monitors, and so forth. Sunday was rather quiet, because it was Mother’s Day and because it was cold & rainy, but even on that day we sold a few computers and monitors.
In the previous garage sale in November we had a wider selection of peripherals and other electronic equipment. This time we narrowed the focus to mostly computers, monitors, and printers because while preparing for the garage sale, we were also preparing to move.
We had a table again this year in Powderhorn Park where the May Day Parade reaches its climax. Various staff members took turns manning the table, telling passers-by about what we do at Free Geek. The weather was a bit brisk, but so was the interest in Free Geek. We gave out all the flyers we had printed.
We got some new shelves built this week, sorely needed. The ‘hose room’, where hoses were hung to dry back when the building was a fire station, is where we have been storing build-machines that are complete as well as in-progress. This isn’t a good arrangement because it’s not always clear which category a machine is in, and the room was getting crowded. On Saturday we started giving completed machines one last check to verify that they’re ready to be distributed, and then moved them to a new home on the new shelves.
We are tentatively planning to have another garage sale in early May. In the coming weeks, we’ll be filling up the new shelves with completed machines, flatscreen monitors, and other computer parts that will be available for purchase at the garage sale. We’re still working on the exact date(s). Check back here for details.
Meanwhile, our recycling process is really becoming a well-oiled machine. We’ve got the routines down of breaking down the old computers & printers to their components, sorting those components into boxes, and segregating the boxes by which recycling partner they need to go to. We used to only sporadically deliver materials to the recyclers; now it’s becoming almost a monthly activity. For now we are relying on volunteers to delivers the parts to recyclers. Since we make a bit of money from the materials, we may eventually be able to pay to have them picked up.
In the past few weeks, we have gotten two long benches in place in the garage for doing teardown work. Even with that, we’re getting so many terrific volunteers that we’re pretty much elbow to elbow. It’s a great problem to have!
If you look at the previous blog entry, from January, the pictures show the one small bench we had for doing teardown, with four people working on it. We have now more than doubled the bench space and the number of volunteers using it. On the teardown benches, we dismantle computers, printers, and other peripherals that are broken or too old to be used for our build program. We break them down to four components: plastic, metal, circuit boards, and mixed. We separate the components and then deliver them to our recycling partners. Some components make us money in recycling, others cost us. So far, we’ve been able to make a bit more money in recycling than we’ve had to spend. The money then goes toward things like paying the rent.
Eventually, the space over on the right will become dedicated to testing and evaluating donated computers and components. We even managed to do a tiny bit of that yesterday.
Meanwhile, in the build room, the tight space story is the same as in the garage. A few months back, four tables were enough working space for doing builds. Then we had to “adopt” a couple of other tables in the room, as our number of volunteers grew. Yesteday we had so many people showing up to learn that we had to pull in folding tables stored in the garage to provide enough space for everyone to work on. We share this space with PPNA and other groups which use it for meetings and gatherings, so whatever we put up, we have to take down. That’s actually a good thing, as it makes us be better roommates, and enables the community to get more use out of the space. We just may have to look at getting more folding tables to accommodate all our friends and neighbors who want to get geeky. Another good problem to have!