If you are an employer in Oklahoma City with laptops you aren’t using, now is the perfect time to donate them. From May 1-31, a campaign led by the Inasmuch Foundation, the Oklahoma City Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and a computer refurbishing company makes it safe, easy and free to donate. When you accept the Employer Laptop Challenge, you support Oklahoma City nonprofits and their clients.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of having a computer and the skills to use it.

Chad Wilkerson, branch executive, vice president and economist at the Kansas City Fed’s Oklahoma City Branch, said closing the digital divide was important before COVID-19, but has become even more critical over the past year.

“Computers and internet provide a vital connection for essential services and learning, and those without could fall behind,” Wilkerson said. “The Employer Laptop Challenge encourages organizations to join the Fed in refurbishing and donating used laptops to community members in need.”

The Kansas City Fed launched External Linkthe Employer Laptop Challenge in April 2020 as part of its work to narrow the digital divide. The campaign generated national attention and resulted in more than 5,000 devices donated in just eight months.

Most of those donations came from just a few large cities. That’s because few cities have both a well-developed pipeline of employers that donate used computers and a credentialed nonprofit computer refurbisher. 501tech has supported the local nonprofit community since 2012, however, a lack of awareness has limited supply from employers. The Oklahoma City Branch of the KC Fed wants to build awareness and a larger supply of devices through the OKC Employer Laptop Challenge.

An ongoing pipeline can make a big difference to employers and residents of Oklahoma City. A new computer easily can exceed $1,000, and essential software costs several hundred dollars more. At the same time, employers typically replace company computers every three to five years. Old computers often are warehoused indefinitely, sold for pennies on the dollar, or sent to the landfill. This new pipeline will allow employers to donate these computers, giving them a second life.

Donated laptops restore people to the community

The refurbished computers will take on a new life at area nonprofits such as Goodwill, ReMerge and Sunbeam, providing digital literacy and job skills to area residents. At ReMerge, for example, when women move from supervised housing in Phase 1, to a sober living situation in Phase 2, they also start computer classes, look for jobs and generally gain more independence. ReMerge plans to assign a donated computer to each woman that they can keep until graduation.

“Access to laptops not only helps ReMerge participants build digital skills, it also restores them to our community,” said Jenna Morey, the nonprofit’s executive director. “It connects them to educational and employment opportunities, links them to online communities, improves their virtual programming experience, and increases their access to health and public services that are vital to the well-being of their families. Digital inclusion expands the bounds of possibility for ReMerge participants.”

Got used computers? Here’s how you can donate

Employers, all it takes is first, donate your used computers; second, spread the word.

  1. Identify laptops to donate. Computers should be no more than six years old.
  2. Contact 501tech at info@501tech.net to schedule a pick-up. 501tech will safely destroy all data, using Department of Defense protocols, and refurbish the computers with new hard drives and software at no cost to participating employers.
  3. Share photos of your donation on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtags #OKC and #LaptopHero.

The campaign runs May 1-31 because we want to create a call to action. However, we recognize it may take time for employers to replace their aging computers and a commitment now may not result in a donation until later in the year. In that case, we encourage employers to pledge a donation in May, even if the delivery won’t happen until later.

About 501tech

A nonprofit organization with offices in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, 501tech provides other Oklahoma nonprofits with the technology and expertise needed to extend their social impact, such as used, rebuilt computers.

For more information about the OKC Employer Laptop Challenge, contact Steven Shepelwich, lead community development advisor, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, at steven.shepelwich@kc.frb.org.

Author

Jeremy Hegle

Senior Community Development Advisor

Jeremy W. Hegle knows the meaning of hard work. Jeremy, a native Missourian, began helping on his grandfather’s farm at the age of 12. Eventually he served in the Army National G…