Helping the Needy Get Nerdy

Free Geek is a not-for-profit community organization that recycles used technology to provide computers, education, Internet access and job skills training to those in need in exchange for community service.

Linux Journal reader Kevin, from Portland, Oregon, tells us, "I've donated equipment and money to them (Free Geek). I love giving working computer gear to them knowing that someone will learn computer skills by refurbishing it, loading Linux on it, and passing it on to someone truly in need of a computer. After 24 hours of donated time the volunteer gets to take home a computer for their own."

They describe their own work best:

Free Geek was founded in February 2000 (and incorporated as a 501(c)(3) in April 2000) to recycle computer technology and provide low and no-cost computing to individuals and not-for-profit and social change organizations in the community and throughout the world.

In the eight years since its formation, Free Geek has recycled over 1,500 tons of electronic scrap and refurbished over 15,000 computer systems that are now in use by individuals and organizations in the community.

Free Geek does most of this work with volunteers (at any given time, about 500 are active). The volunteers disassemble the donated equipment and test the components, which are either recycled as electronic scrap or recycled into refurbished systems. These refurbished computers are then loaded with Open Source Software, such as GNU/Linux, Open Office, and other Free Software.

Visit Free Geek for more information.

Readers, if you know of other grass-roots efforts and groups doing similar for communities outside of Portland, Oregon, drop a note in the comments below. We'd love to hear about them.


Carlie Fairchild is the publisher of Linux Journal.


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may i be near you

moses vanmark's picture

I thought about starting a Free Geek thing here in uganda, looking for 10 p'ple who are refugees from rwanda i help them with house rate, some food stuffs and house holds. but i could have wish them to have some little studies but i cann't aford it, if there are some other FreeGeek locations here in uganda i would wish to co-op with them.

The ACM student group at

Anonymous's picture

The ACM student group at Robert Morris University does this too. School gets rid of older computers and we put Linux on and give them out to non profits.

Free Geek in Canada

Canuck's picture

There is also Free Geek Vancouver -

Awesome peeps!

Any such groups based in India?

Rakesh 'arky' Ambati's picture


Are there any such groups based in India. I would like to pitch in and help them.



ByteWORKS in St. Louis, MO

Dan's picture

ByteWORKS is St. Louis, MO based 501c3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing computer literacy to primarily at-risk, low-income children between the ages of 9 and 15 years old. The children participate in a series of six classes and are introduced to a range of topics such as word processing and Internet safety, among others.

Upon successful completion of the six-week course, the student (or household), takes home one computer and monitor plus necessary accessories. We call this course our Earn-A-Computer program. The computers are used computers donated by companies and individuals in the St. Louis area and refurbished by our team of volunteers.

In addition to the Children's program, ByteWORKS offers a series of classes for adults. This is an excellent introductory program for those adults interested in learning more about computers and the software skills needed to succeed in today's tech-centric business environment.


I'm from Portland

lapubell's picture

and this is a great place. I love their thrift store, used comp parts that are cheap and I'm helping out a great cause!

Komputers4Kids in Austin, TX also does this

Sum Yung Gai's picture

Komputers4Kids, run by Ken "Helios" Starks, has been doing this for a little while, too. He and his small group of volunteers take older computers, juice them up with a little DRAM if needed, install some GNU/Linux distro (the "Ultimate Ubuntu" version of Ubuntu Linux), and put them in the hands of kids. It's recently become part of, and is now funded by, his "Fixed by Linux" program.


Computers for the Needy

Michelle Greer's picture

I am doing something like this in Austin. I am fairly involved in the tech community, and it is amazing to see people with every gadget known to mankind. I also help a lady here in town who is helping 100 or so refugees who came here with nothing. I met a lady who was very new to the U.S. and didn't have a mop to clean her house yet. To see both sides, the contrast is staggering.

I am trying to get these refugees various items to get them on their feet, including computers. Linux is the natural choice, since I can use older computers and not worry about them bogging down or getting viruses.

If you are in the Austin area and have computers or other items you would like to contribute, please contact me at I can give you a tax receipt. And please, no frankencomputers I have to piece together. I am grateful for help, but I've received a few of these already and don't really have the time to deal with them.

Thanks to Katherine and Justin at the Linux Journal for their help. These people totally rock!!!

You should get in touch with Ken Starks

Sum Yung Gai's picture

Michelle, if you're also in Austin, you ought to get in touch with Helios (see above). Perhaps you two can work together.


Other FreeGeek locations

Jim Campbell's picture

There are other FreeGeek locations, too. For example, there's one in Chicago. :) :)

I actually considered

Shawn Powers's picture

I thought about starting a Free Geek thing here in Northern Michigan. It was hard to find local support, and it was more than I could do alone -- but I LOVE the folks behind Free Geek. They rock.

Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing.

edubuntu pcs for africa

derek's picture

check out
They refurbish pcs with edubuntu and send them to Africa! is here in Ireland.