June 22, 2006
PEORIA - Recycling for Illinois is mounting a push to get 2,400 computers into the hands of low-income children by the beginning of the school year.
The not-for-profit group collects used electronics - not just computers but also TVs, cell phones, microwaves and other items - and provides them to disabled and low-income families.
"At back-to-school time, there's probably the largest demand for computers," said Michael Hodge, the group's director. "They can use the machines to do their homework and do research on the Internet."
Recycling for Illinois will hold an electronics drive Saturday in the parking lot of Firestone at Northwoods Mall. In addition to computers, they will accept anything with a cord, with the exception of very large electronics such as refrigerators and stoves. Contributions are tax deductible.
All students who are considered low income under the federal poverty guidelines, including college students, qualify to receive a computer for a $35 application fee and $15 for a modem.
"That department was dwindling down to barely getting any applications at all, and that was because we didn't have enough literature out there to demonstrate that we still exist," said Cathy Armstrong, who handles client services for the group.
"This could be something that's going to be very good for their future. This can give them a job from home. Especially for a person with a disability, (a computer) can connect them to the outside world."
She said she had clients who had used their computers to start their own businesses.
"Some of them actually just find a friend and chat back and forth. Keeping in touch with family is very important, especially for people with disabilities who can't travel," she said, noting that some clients had used their machines to keep track of relatives in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Richard Pickens, who is disabled, said he would not have been able to afford a computer on his own.
"My mom, my wife, me, we all were disabled and we all (got) computers. I'm always on it, dealing with it, finding lots of things. It can expand your mind," he said. "I do all the cooking in the house now . . . so I might (find) recipes."
For Denise Westafer, the computer she received helps her stay connected with the outside world.
"I'm disabled, and I'm home a lot, and I also get on the Internet and communicate with my relatives in Indiana and Texas. Without my computer, I would be lost," she said.
-Erin Durkin, Peoria Journal Star