Free Geek!

I nominate Free Geek to anyone and everyone as your new favorite nonprofit, your new organization to donate to, and the organization to talk about when you need to look informed and passionate 🙂

Why Free Geek?

My great friend Marie compiled reasons why we love Free Geek:

  • Free Geek is one of the few organizations in the U.S. that can accurately say it recycles materials it can’t reuse in an environmentally and socially responsible way. None of its materials end up poisoning children on other continents. (Did you see the recent 60 Minutes coverage of this shameful subject?) Do you know where the ewaste you produce ends up? Watch what happens when you ask for documentation about its disposition (and watch the 60 Minutes piece!).  Free Geek has applied for BAN certification and we expect it to come shortly.
  • Free Geek is where the poorest people in the Portland area earn free computers and learn how to use them, gaining valuable job skills that can change their lives.
  • Free Geek is where you find immigrants and refugees building their own computers and taking classes in free software, helping them find a way in their new land.
  • Free Geek is a place where brilliant young geeks get recognized and encouraged.  I just met a 13-year-old boy there who already can program as well as any of the veterans in this magnet for brilliant geeks.  Free Geek is nurturing his talent in a way that wouldn’t happen otherwise.
  • Free Geek is where a man in his mid-80s finds a community that appreciates his talents and where he stays in touch with people.  He’s built more than 500 computers to help the needy get nerdy.  A very smart 5-year-old is now building computers there with his mom!
  • Free Geek truly means what it pays.  Staff members who are paid all get the same hourly rate. Yes, from the person answering the phone to the person dealing with big picture policy.
  • It’s the most grassroots and hands-on organization I’ve ever seen, helping the neediest people in our community.
  • I’ve never met a kinder or more giving group of people in my life.
  • It serves the most diverse group of people of any organization I’ve ever seen, in nearly every measurement: age, gender, background, abilities, disabilities, ethnic & racial, world views, etc. etc.


Free Geek is a place where Marie‘s son, and my friend, and many people’s teacher, friend, and hero works.

Meet Blaine:

Blaine is an amazing person: he is calming and passionate and helpful and caring and supportive, and, well, amazing. He is one of those rare people in life that you feel honored to know, to hug and to call a friend.  Knowing what he gives to Free Geek and what the community gives back to him only furthers the proof that he is truly a hero! (super hero even?) 🙂

Here’s how Marie captured it:

As many of you know, Blaine was born with spina bifida and is paralyzed and lacks sensation below his armpits.  This past summer, Blaine received an award for “Volunteer Extraordinaire” at Free Geek in recognition that for the past five years, every day Free Geek is open and he is not really really sick, Blaine has been getting himself up and ready to go in and help that amazing nonprofit organization.  I get to see what it takes for Blaine to make his important contribution. What can I say?  He’s my hero.

I’ve always know what Free Geek does for Blaine, but I was stunned to hear what he means to Free Geek.  Recently some of his co-workers there shared some thoughts about what Blaine provides Free Geek.  When I heard these things, my heart soared like a hawk.  I wish every mother had the opportunity to hear people appreciate their son or daughter like this:

  • “Recently my niece signed up to volunteer at Free Geek, opting to work her way through the Computer Build program to earn a free computer.  My advice to her was, ‘Prepare to work independently, overcome great frustration, and when in doubt, stay close to Blaine.’”
  • “Blaine’s tutelage was instrumental in my making it through the Build program at Free Geek (launching me into other areas of contribution), and I know he has provided similar assistance to hundreds, if not thousands of other volunteers there.”
  • “Blaine is an amazingly knowledgable and patient instructor and coordinator of other volunteers. Despite his limited mobility, Blaine is able to help direct and answer questions of our volunteers, which in turn keep our organization running.”
  • “Blaine is among the most valued members of the Free Geek community and of its volunteer labor force.”
  • “Blaine helps teach others good work skills and reinforces the importance of showing up on time and doing your job with all you have, and he is always willing to learn more from others to share with his students.”
  • “I have been very impressed with Blaine’s patient and consistently upbeat contributions as a volunteer with the Free Geek build program.  He was extremely supportive and helpful to a young man from a Haitian refugee family who learned a lot from a series of afternoons with Blaine: about computers, people, tolerance and empathy from his supportive manner and patient instruction.”
  • “He is a beloved member of our community. It’s impossible to work with Blaine without appreciating his cheer and warmth. I’ve never seen him get irritated, even in the most difficult times; His equanimity helps us all to maintain our own sanity. He’s an inspiring presence.”

How to Support the Free Geek team & community:

It’s rough times, for everyone.  But Free Geek needs your support however you can give it.

  • If you are in Portland, OR: Take your no-longer-needed computer and other electronic items to Free Geek at 1731 SE 10th Ave., just a couple blocks south of Hawthorne.
  • If you aren’t in Portland, OR:  Make a charitable donation to this wonderful organization (tax deductible of course!). You can give through PayPal directly on the Free Geek site or through the Willamette Week Give Guide (and get some schwag for your trouble!).
  • Mail or deliver a check to Free Geek, 1731 SE 10th Ave., Portland OR  97214.  (Tell them Marie sent you!)

If none of those options speak to you, why not try one of these options:

The Short Version about 5 minutes long (viewed more than 50,000 times so far!):

Looking for a new favorite organization?
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