Ypsilanti

Ypsi Township nonprofit refurbishes computers for giveaway, seeking to bridge digital divide

An Ypsilanti Township-based nonprofit called Behavior Workshop recently gave away nine refurbished Dell computers to local low-income families.

Behavior Workshop's mission is to "introduce positive alternative lifestyles to at-risk youth." Its founder, Tyrone Bridges, says he began refurbishing and donating computers through his nonprofit in 2016 after a county commissioner mentioned that some old computers were destined for the landfill. Bridges thought that he and Behavior Workshop participants could make further use of the computers by updating their software and hardware. 

"I said, 'Just give them to me,'" Bridges says. "I'll grab these units and teach these kids how to do it."

The project allowed waste to be diverted from landfills, while participants in the nonprofit could gain skills in refurbishing and repairing laptop and desktop computers. The nonprofit gave away 20 desktop computers in 2016 and a mix of 25 desktop and laptop computers in 2017, then took a break for a few years. All the computers were set up with the newest operating systems available at the time, along with both licensed and open-source software that would be useful to any user.

"The whole program is geared toward breaking down the digital divide between low-income families and computer technology," Bridges says. 

One of this year's computer recipients was Ypsilanti resident Tiara Warren. She says she found out about the giveaway after running into Bridges at a community event. She asked to snag a computer for her 13-year-old son.

"This is so beneficial for children who are unable to get desktops," she says. "They come fully loaded as far as anything my son would need to do to get school assignments done. They're just now getting into the school year and haven't had a lot of homework yet, but he's equipped for when that time comes."

Local nonprofit Survivors Speak has also donated 14 computer mice to Behavior Workshop, and Bridges has received a few older monitors from friends and acquaintances. He says he's hoping to attract individual donations or grant money to make sure he has monitors, mice, and other devices to pair with all the units he's giving away.

Bridges says that anyone interested in donating old computer equipment or money, or in keeping tabs on future technology giveaways, can email him at tyronebridges@yahoo.com

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy of Tyrone Bridges.