‘That could be their lifeline’: Group provides refurbished computers to those in need

Click to play video: 'Electronics recycling warehouse making a difference in Edmonton'
Electronics recycling warehouse making a difference in Edmonton
WATCH ABOVE: The Electronics Recycling Association gave 30 refurbished computer to Boyle Street Community Services last week. Emily Mertz spoke with staff there on Monday to learn more about their operation and the impact it is having – Apr 25, 2016

EDMONTON – What do you do with your old electronics? A not-for-profit group, now operating in four provinces, hopes you’ll consider donating it.

The Electronic Recycling Association (ERA) was founded more than a decade ago by a man who grew up in Croatia and Bosnia and, at the age of eight, saw his home blown up.

He later moved to Canada, hoping to start a life in Calgary.

He landed in Calgary and somebody gave him a computer…to help him get up and running and accustomed,” ERA’s Stew Lamont said. “Ever since then, he’s been wanting to give back.”

The ERA also operates in Edmonton. The group collects donations of electronics, then takes them apart and wipes or shreds the hard drives and refurbishes them.

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Since it was founded in 2004, the ERA has donated tens of thousands of refurbished computers to groups in need.

“I just see the smiles on people’s faces,” Lamont said. “Just to be able to be a part of helping somebody stand up again – they’ve been kicked, it’s hard, they’re down.

“They’ve got nothing left, but if they get a donated laptop, to them that means a difference of working online, looking for work, doing what we take for granted everyday. That could be their lifeline.

“From wherever they are, they could start fresh again from that one little donation.”

Last week, Boyle Street Community Services received 30 computers from the ERA. It hopes they will help clients access social services, search for jobs and connect with loved ones.

The ERA has 37 staff members who work on collecting, sorting, and refurbishing those donations along with connecting with social agencies to make sure the tablets, laptops and desktops get where they’re needed.

“This is really, really helpful in sending out resumes,” Lamont explained. “We do a lot of things electronically now it’s part of our way to doing things and that’s what moves them forward.

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Used electronics can be dropped off at the ERA warehouse at 6772 99 Street in Edmonton.

The group also welcomes volunteers. In fact, if you need a computer, you can exchange one day of work at the warehouse for a refurbished machine.

Lamont says he recognizes there are more people than ever needing that little extra boost.

The ERA recently posted one job opening in Edmonton and received 300 applications.

“Everybody has the exact same story; it’s all the oil industry crash,” he said.

“People come in and they look at me and I say, ‘I’m looking for a low-qualifying person because I don’t need to hire an engineer to do this, I don’t need to hire a Class 1 driver to do this. These guys make more money than what I’m offering. It would be a timefill for them, which is taking away from the real person who needs this job.”

Lamont wishes they could hire all 300 applicants, but for now, will focus on the good he can do.

“We just need to know what we can do, when we can do it and we’ll be there.”


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