By Sherese Gore
Used computers will get new life with local families after a charitable gift from Ferrum College allowed STEP, Inc. to donate used computers to the local school system.
In 2017, STEP (Solutions That Empower People) received more than three dozen Apple iMac computers from Ferrum College. The devices were used machines that Ferrum College refurbished with the intention of donating to an organization that could benefit from their use.
STEP is a nonprofit community action agency that provides services for low-income individuals and families.
STEP and Ferrum College have been long-time partners in efforts that include the STEP’s welcoming of Ferrum College interns each semester, Ferrum College’s social work department assisting the nonprofit in collecting and tabulating community surveys, and a Ferrum College administrator who sits on STEP’s board of directors.
Now, Ferrum College is “helping us out with computers,” said STEP Executive Director Marc Crouse.
According to Crouse, a priority for STEP was the upgrading of antiquated or non-functioning computers in its LIFES Academy alternative education program. The donation of iMacs from Ferrum College enabled STEP to purchase Apex Learning, which allows a more personalized learning experience for students attending LIFES Academy. Several of the donated computers also went to staff members in STEP’s Head Start and Early Head Start programs.
“We’re very happy to learn that STEP has benefitted from them so much,” said Chris Burnley, Ferrum College vice president of administration and finance.
This year, STEP returned the act of altruism.
STEP uses Mid-Atlantic Data & Communications to perform its information technology needs. Brian Hamilton, the owner of Mid-Atlantic Data, ran for the Franklin County School Board in 2013, and through that effort, he learned of the technological shortcomings faced by some families.
Hamilton now routinely asks businesses if they would be interested in donating used equipment to the school system. Prior to distribution, he wipes the hard drive clean and installs a new operating system.
“I have never had a business owner turn me down,” he said.
According to Hamilton, “it’s amazing what a P.C. can do for you.”
“The computer made the world small,” Hamilton said. “You can see places that you would never, ever, go physically, but you can see the beauty of our world through your computer screen and that’s truly amazing.”
Hamilton first distributed donated computers to Franklin County Public Schools in 2014. This year, he acted as an intermediary through which STEP donated used computers to the school system.
According to Crouse, STEP normally destroys the hard drives in its computers that have fallen out of use, but when he learned of Hamilton’s history of donating used computers, the decision to recycle the old devices was made simple.
Franklin County Public Schools has an application program by which the school system donates its own used devices to families who demonstrate a financial and academic need. STEP’s donated computers have been incorporated into this program.
The school system partners with STEP through programs that include LIFES Academy.
“We’ve worked with STEP for years, and they are an important part of our community,” said Mark Church, superintendent of Franklin County Public Schools.
The used computers will help “our students and their families to be able to utilize technology when maybe money is an issue,” Church said.
Ferrum College’s computer donation is an aspect of nonprofit work that works well, Crouse said.
“We all have limited funding and have to carefully squeeze every ounce of benefit out of every penny entrusted to us,” Crouse said. “This collaboration to recycle and regenerate computer equipment is a great example of this concept in action. I believe this diligence will make those who trust us with their money and other resources very proud.”