Organization helps deserving Coloradans get computers for free

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DENVER -- Owning a computer is something many take for granted, but there are thousands of people in Denver alone who can't afford one. Now, a nonprofit that started in Minnesota is bringing affordable, refurbished PCs to people in Colorado.

This week, PCs for People, in a partnership with BlueStar Recyclers, is beginning to offer computers at little to no cost to those living near the poverty line, and the nonprofit is able to do it thanks to some unlikely contributors.

“I’m just really grateful for a place like this,” said Ben Williams, who is one of two new hardware technicians.

Williams and another technician, Philip Martinez, are grateful to work on something they love and grateful to simply have a job.

"I'm one of those individuals who has difficulty finding a job," Martinez said.

Williams and Martinez have autism, but PCs for People also knows they have potential.

"I couldn't do this job without them," said David Little, a manager of PCs for People.

In a few weeks, the technicians’ work refurbishing hardware has given Little the chance to update software and prepare hundreds of computers and monitors for distribution in Denver.

"These guys are surprisingly qualified but they don't always get the opportunities,” Little said. “This is going to give them a chance to do (more)."

"I'm just glad places like this exist,” Williams said. “Because if they didn't a good chunk of the population would not be able to get a job of any sort."

This is the second job Williams and Martinez have had in the past few months. They were originally hired by BlueStar Recyclers, which hires autistic individuals, to break down and sort discarded electronics. Now, through BlueStar, they are helping PCs for People rescue the computers that don’t need to be cast aside.

"Today we're able to keep these computers out of a landfill,” Little said. “And put them in the hands of somebody who actually may not be able to afford a computer otherwise."

That need was evident on Monday, when PCs for People, in partnership with BlueStar, handed out its first wave of computers.

"It's a blessing," said Katrina Haselgren, a mother of four from Aurora who hasn’t been able to afford a computer.

"I've never had a computer in my home," said Deborah Crowley.

Though Crowley said she’s grateful to receive a computer, it’s her daughter who needs it most.

"She's a junior in high school and there's a lot of things that I'm not able to provide for her," Crowley said.

With the help of sponsors, PCs for People handed out a total of 40 computers to families on Monday. The recipients didn’t have to pay anything.

"It's like a Santa's workshop here," Haselgren said.

"They are like Santa's little elves because without them, what would we have done?" Crowley said.

It's a question Crowley and the others no longer have to ask, and on Monday they got a chance to thank the “elves”, Williams and Martinez, themselves.

"Thank you so much,” Crowley said, shaking Williams hand. “You're going to make a very happy 16-year-old little girl."

PCs for People will officially open to the public in Denver on Tuesday.

To find out if you qualify for a free or reduced price computer click here.

PCs for People also depends on donations in order to help others. For more information on how to give click here.

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