Elizabeth Johnson is no stranger to hard work. An administrative assistant her entire career, Elizabeth worked at companies like IBM and Fairchild Semiconductor before taking a job in her local school system. “I needed something where I could be close to my sons’ after-school activities,” she says. “As a single mother, I had to be as efficient with my time as possible, so working in the schools they went to was great for all of us.”
Elizabeth spent 20 years in the Saco school system, where she healed countless “boo-boos” and connected with thousands of students, including the special needs children she worked with during the summers. “To this day, I have grown adults calling me Ms. Johnson in the supermarket and asking me if I remember them. I love knowing that something I said or did was important enough to them that they still remember me after all these years. It means a lot.”
Unfortunately, a medical condition that made sitting for long periods impossible forced Elizabeth to take early retirement from the school system in 2016. Elizabeth went on disability but didn’t feel right about it. Her legs weren’t working correctly, but her brain was still as sharp as her desire to take care of herself. “I just think being productive boosts your whole health and well-being no matter what your age is,” Elizabeth says. “I couldn’t just sit around when I could be doing something to stay busy and earn my own money.”
Elizabeth took a part-time job working at a large company’s call center in southern Maine, where she helped customers place orders over the telephone and via email. “I was used to dealing with 800 kids. Compared to that, this work was easy, and I did well enough at it that they kept letting me come back,” she says with a laugh. As much as she enjoyed the work, her thirty-minute commute combined with the cost of gas and tolls slowly stifled her enthusiasm. “It’s frustrating to want to take care of yourself only to end up spending so much time and money just getting to work.”
When COVID-19 hit, Elizabeth stopped going into the office and went back on disability. A few weeks later, her grown son reached out to her for help with child care and homeschooling his two daughters. “My son is a JAG officer and a lawyer, so there’s no way he could do it all himself,” Elizabeth says. “I did lessons with the girls every morning from April of 2020 until this last school year ended. Homeschooling my granddaughters was the perfect solution to keep us all safe during quarantine. Now it’s time for me to take care of myself again.”
Unwilling to subject herself and her car to the wear and tear of commuting, Elizabeth looked into working remotely. As fate would have it, she received a letter from her former employer asking if she’d be interested in working from home as a customer service representative. Elizabeth was thrilled to get back to work for a company she liked but there was one major obstacle: “I needed a new computer to log in to their online ordering system because my old laptop was on its last legs.”
A lifelong recycler, Elizabeth started looking for companies that sold refurbished computers. “I don’t have a lot of money, and I figured there had to be plenty of used machines out there from people who constantly upgrade to the next great thing. I found give IT. get IT. on the Maine state website, and it was exactly what I was looking for. I’m still kind of numb about it because it’s almost too good to be true!”
Due to Elizabeth’s age, medical condition, and financial situation, we were able to tap our grant program to subsidize all but $100 of the $285 cost of an entirely upgraded desktop computer with a webcam and headset. When a give IT. get IT. Sponsor heard Elizabeth’s story; he sent a check for the final $100, so Elizabeth’s refurbished pc cost her absolutely nothing. Best of all, we processed Elizabeth’s order in just 24 hours. She picked up her computer on a Friday, used the weekend to get the hang of it, and then aced her interview on Monday. The following week, she accepted an offer for a remote call center representative job from one of Maine’s largest employers at a starting hourly rate of $17/hour!
Elizabeth is a classic example of the predicament facing Americans all over the country. How do you engage in remote work or education opportunities when you can’t afford a computer? It’s especially challenging for older Americans like Elizabeth, who was barely getting by on social security. The computer she received from give IT. get IT. will enable her to earn extra money to cover her living expenes without leaving her home which will save her at least $10/day in gas and tolls. Elizabeth will also save an hour of commuting time to take care of herself instead of sitting in traffic. “This computer is a very big step for me,” Elizabeth says. “Going back to work is like getting part of myself back. I’m so excited.”
Millions of people like Elizabeth are able and willing to work, but lack the technical skills and/or resources to do it. At give IT. get IT., we work hard every day to fill this gap with retired corporate technology that might otherwise end up wasting away in a storage facility or worse, breaking down over hundreds of years in a landfill.
We’re proud to provide electronic equipment recycling services to hundreds of businesses throughout New England like IDEXX, Bangor Savings Bank, and MEMIC that believe in our digital inclusion and accessibility mission. These companies could send their retired corporate tech to other recyclers, but they choose us to help our non profit organization help people like Elizabeth and thousands of other folks just like her each year.
If you work for a business with technology that needs to be recycled or know someone who does, please refer them to our website to start a conversation about our e-waste recycling services.