The Virtual Scavengers Project, Inc., not only recycles broken computers, they put usable, low-cost computers in the hands of people who need or want them. The non-profit company recently moved to the South Side, offering a place for residents to learn new skills as they refurbish unwanted computers and peripherals. They host Saturday seminars to teach about e-waste and the process of recycling. After the seminar, participants earn a free, rebuilt computer. Customers can also purchase one for $50 and up. “I think it impacts the community because it empowers people,” said Beth Knight-Crum, director of communications. “It gives them the tools they need. Everybody needs a computer nowadays. You apply for a job, you do it online.
”?Virtual Scavengers began in 1997, started by John Crook after he realized there was no safe way to get rid of electronics. He started the business with a mission of recycle, reuse and repurpose. They moved to their South Side location because they needed a larger space and wanted to center around a community which needed help more.
“We’re all about being where we’re needed,” Knight-Crum said. “The South Side has always been a good area. People know how to get there. We like the area. We’ve had people just stop in and welcome us. You don’t get that anywhere else. It’s important, being a part of the community.
”Indiana recently put into effect a new law forbidding electronics from going into landfills, or garbage, which increases the need for additional recycling options. Though Virtual Scavengers only salvages computers and related products, they won’t turn down other electronics. They pass on items such as microwaves and TVs to recycling companies who specialize in them. The computers they recycle go through a 15-hour process to remove all personal information from the hard drive. “We want people to know there are safe and legal places to take the stuff.” Knight-Crum said.?She said many people, including about 15 high school students, have taken advantage of the opportunity to work toward a free computer since the January grand opening of the new location. Those who take the seminar may also come in and rebuild their own computer with assistance from Virtual Scavengers. Though the seminars are offered on Saturdays, they make exceptions for those who can’t make it due to work or family obligations. “They are working to make their lives better,” Beth said. “It’s making the planet better, society better. Some people have thought it was a scam. At first people are like ‘you do what?’ And then when we explain to them what we do they get excited.”
By Nicole Palmer