Families in Burlington County who find that tapping into the Internet for online school classes and meetings is a financial hardship, could be sitting in front of their own laptop very soon under a pilot project launched by the Burlington County Library System Foundation.
The foundation is asking residents to donate old working laptops and other computer devices, which can be wiped clean of data, outfitted with new software, and refurbished for transferring to families in need.
The foundation, which is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit that supports the library, is also seeking tax-deductible donations of cash and other assets to offset the cost of new hardware and software.
“It goes without saying,” said President Pat Lindsay-Harvey. “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a horrible impact on everyone’s quality of life. But this is particularly true of those who can’t afford computers, since so much of our everyday activities have gone ‘virtual.’”
The foundation is asking county residents to bring old working equipment to the Main Branch of the library on Saturday, Jan. 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The library is located off Woodlane Road in Westampton.
“To be clear, this is a pilot program,” Lindsay-Harvey said. “But we have the good fortune to be working with two other volunteer organizations with computer experts that are willing to work on the donated equipment and make it reusable.”
Those organizations include Computer Smiles, based in Cherry Hill and Willingboro, and the South Jersey Apple Users Group (SJAUG), based in Medford and Mount Laurel.
Computer Smiles, created by Marc Goldstein, a retired businessman, has been involved in computer repurposing for some time, having refurbished and donated nearly 500 computers to those in need.
Lindsay-Harvey said even though Computer Smiles and the SJAUG will purge all existing data, residents are encouraged to remove the data before offering their equipment.
The foundation is specifically asking for the following:
- PCs – Laptops installed with Windows 7 or newer (no Vista or XP)
- Apple products, including iPads or printers
Those interested in making financial donations to offset hardware and software costs are encouraged to visit the foundation’s website at www.bclsf.org.
Once the devices are refurbished, the foundation will work with county partners to identify families who need them.
The laptop refurbishing program dovetails with the ongoing Technology for All initiative. The foundation has raised or donated funds totaling $6,000 which, coupled with a $45,000 grant, will enable the library to buy Chromebooks and mobile hotspots for loan to library customers.
Lindsay-Harvey said the foundation is hoping the laptop pilot program proves successful, and can be continued in the weeks ahead. According to the New Jersey Department of Education, more than 7,000 New Jersey students lack computer devices.
“This is an opportunity to get everyone on-line,” she said. “It’s just that simple and just that big!”