‘Get Connected’ Brings Computers to Those in Need

Photo By Robert Sondak

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Every Wednesday afternoon from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., volunteers
gather in the basement of Old Cambridge Baptist Church in Harvard Square to build computers
for those in need. They are part of Get Connected – a volunteer-run computer clinic provided by
the nonprofit Solutions At Work in partnership with Computer Care and Learning, a for-profit
education assistance company started in 2006.

Volunteers from all walks staff the program: college students, working people, people in
between jobs, scientists, homeless people and computer technicians. The clinic refurbishes
donated Windows desktops, along with a limited number of laptop computers, and makes them
available to income-eligible people to use for job searching, continuing education, finding
housing and staying in touch with family and friends.

Volunteers under professional supervision test the computers to see that the hardware and
software are operating correctly. Basic software installation includes a free Firefox browser
along with a free word processing application, Open Office.

“People who get a computer from Get Connected are referred to as program participants. We
encourage these people to call or walk in for tech support when they need it,” explained Lauren
Curduck, executive director of Solutions at Work. “We would also like these clients to help us to
provide more computers to people.”

According to a volunteer who gave his name as John, Windows computers the clinic provides
have very durable hardware that allows volunteers to switch out parts from one machine to
another. He also pointed out that there are many hardware manufactures, so the time frame for
refurbishing computers is much faster.

Getting a computer is a three-step process. For step one, a client meets with one of the tech
workers, who demonstrates how the computer and the internet function. After that, the client
practices the basics on the computer and asks relevant questions.

Finally, the client donates $50 or $150, depending on their income, and takes the computer
home. Clients who cannot afford to make a monetary donation can donate volunteer time instead.

Solutions At Works also helps income-eligible people through its business attire clothing bank,
children’s clothing and toy bank, and moving service.

Another volunteer, Jay, said that he enjoys learning about computers through his work with Get
Connected.

“Fixing computers is providing a means to help people access the internet, and it is also [about]
being social,” he said.

Yvonne, another volunteer, agreed. “I am happy to help people out,” she explained, “and send

our refurbished equipment to people who need it.”

To apply for a computer, email program manager Adam Frost at afrost@solutionsatwork.org.
Adam will contact you with basic questions about computer needs and which setup fee donation
is appropriate to your means.

Robert Sondak is a vendor and a writer for Spare Change News.

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