Residents may be eligible for a free computer

Published 10:25 am Thursday, October 18, 2012

Residents in need will soon get the chance to own a refurbished computer, courtesy of a St. Paul non-profit dedicated to bridging the Digital Divide between people in poverty and those with access to technology.

PCs for People, which started in 1998, will be in town on Oct. 26 to distribute 75 to 100 refurbished computers to residents who get services from local nonprofits and agencies and who live at 150 percent of the poverty line for their househould or greater.

“We definitely have seen a need for people to have greater access to technology,” said Ann Austin, executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County. United Way workers are working with PCs for People and other local nonprofits to organize the Oct. 26 distribution.

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Austin said while many residents in need go to the library to use technology, residents looking for jobs or going to school would be better served using and learning about technology by owning a computer.

“Having a personal computer gives people the ability to work at home,” Austin said. “It will help people to gain an advantage.”

Residents interested in participating must contact a local nonprofit they work with, such as the Salvation Army or Semcac, to be put on a list PCs for People will use during distribution. Businesses interested in donating computers that are seven years old or younger can contact PCs for People directly, and the organization will pick up and refurbish the computers before Oct. 26. Each computer will be wiped of all data, repaired and upgraded where necessary and installed with a new copy of Microsoft Windows XP or 7. The refurbished computers will also get free software including educational games, OpenOffice and security and antivirus protection.

PCs for People will distribute computers Oct. 26 in an office near the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce office inside Northbridge Mall, though the exact time and space has yet to be determined. Participants will need to provide their name, phone number and photo identification to get their computer.