Colleen Creer, a 26-year-old customer service rep from Portland, Oregon, was in a bind at the end of last year. She'd just lost her in-person job with a major retailer due to a Covid-19 closure and wanted to do the same type of work remotely. One problem: Creer, who has lived on the edge of poverty for years, didn't have a computer.
Enter Free Geek, a nonprofit in Portland that salvages broken laptops, tablets and desktops, fixes them and provides them at low or no-cost to people who can’t afford new ones. But while the pandemic heightened the demand for Free Geek’s repaired computers, corporate policies preventing easy access to parts, manuals and equipment made it harder for the nonprofit to complete its mission.