Volunteers are the backbone of work at Free Geek, making the massive e-waste recycling operation possible. Since the founding in 2000, over 20,500 volunteers passed through the doors. In 2016 alone, over 2,000 active volunteers and interns gave more than 47,500 hours of their time to Free Geek.
Free Geek was the joint winner of the first Chris Nicol FOSS Prize awarded by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) in 2007.
Free Geek is committed to providing free Technology equipment and support to organizations working hard to make the Portland community a better place. The Hardware Grant Program connects qualifying nonprofits and schools with refurbished desktop computers, laptops, printers, and other equipment. Since their inception, they have granted more than 10,500 items to a total of over 2,000 nonprofits such as Black Lives Matter (Vancouver, WA), Bradley-Angle House, Habitat for Humanity, Hacienda CDC, Home Forward, KBOO Community Radio, North West Children's Theatre and School, Oxford House and Street Roots. 60% of grantees are based in the Portland Metro area; between 2012 and 2017, 25% of hardware grants went to schools or educational nonprofits, 18% to human services, 13% to arts & culture, 10% to community development, and the rest to a host of other sectors such as civil rights, animal welfare, health, faith-based organizations, and the environment.
According to a 2014 Broadband Adoption Survey, at least 15% of Portland-area residents do not have internet access at home, while at least 10% do not even have access to a computer. This population largely consists of vulnerable and at-risk communities: low-income families, youth, seniors, people of color, immigrants and refugees, people with disabilities, and English language learners. Lack of basic computer skills puts these populations at a stark disadvantage. In 2016, in partnership with the Multnomah County Library and a diverse group of community partners – including MetroEast Community Media, Home Forward, Human Solutions, Hacienda CDC, The Olseth Family Foundation, and NTEN (the Nonprofit Technology Network) – Free Geek launched the first cohort of our Earn-a-Computer (EAC) program, a five-week culturally-specific digital literacy curriculum designed to bring these vital skills directly into the communities who need them most and have least access to them.
Free Geek is committed to keeping Oregon green. Raw materials are processed by volunteers in their warehouse, where approximately 40% of it is restored into usable Technology. Some of it is sold, either online or in their Southeast Portland store, where proceeds support educational and outreach programs. Any materials which cannot be reused are recycled to the highest ethical, safety and sustainability standards, preventing it from entering our waste stream and poisoning the environment. Free Geek also donates refurbished computers and Technology directly back into the community; in 2017, for Example, Free Geek was able to give away six laptop computers for every ten sold in the Free Geek Store. In 2016 Free Geek donated 4,400 refurbished items of Technology back to the community, providing free computers to low-income individuals, schools and nonprofit partners throughout the Portland Metro area and beyond.