The Temple Tech for Philly program, a collaboration run by the Computer Recycling Center, has been donating the university’s surplus technology, including computers and printers, to local Philadelphia nonprofits and community centers for more than a decade.
Making sure the computers, often donated in bulk, are maintained is a “priority” of the Office of Community Relations, a university official said.
But once the computers are donated, several community centers told The Temple News that their staff members don’t know how to address issues that arise on the devices. And several centers don’t use the devices at all anymore because they can’t staff the labs.
TECH FOR PHILLY PROGRAM
Through an online application process, organizations can file a request on the Computer Recycling Center’s website to receive refurbished technology that has been deemed unwanted by university departments and has not been purchased at a discounted rate by students.
The program, overseen by CRC Director Jonathan Latko, donated to 30 project sites in 2014 and 22 sites in 2015. Data wasn’t available for the CRC’s donations in 2016 and 2017.
“Last year it might have been was a little less because we were a little more pointed,” Latko said. “We were more specific, and I’ve been refining this process over time. I didn’t have as much to donate.”
The program recently donated 10 computers and 2 printers to Berean Presbyterian Church on Broad and Diamond streets. It was formally installed by Temple’s Facilities Management and the CRC on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Greg Bonaparte, a trustee of the church and a general mechanic for the university’s housing department, said his parish requested the lab to create a space where children could use the internet safely, adults could create resumes and cover letters and seniors could learn basic computer skills.
“Temple has spread out a lot more to community churches and organizations than they ever did,” said Bonaparte, who grew up and still lives in North Philadelphia. “I see the difference.”
Berean has not yet opened the lab to its parishioners. Bonaparte said an official opening date will be determined after the church holds meetings with its administration to create a plan for the lab’s use. The main problem is creating a schedule for people to “monitor” the computers while they are used, he added.
Director of Community and Neighborhood Affairs Andrea Swan said her office is tasked with maintaining community partnerships and coordinating outreach efforts. It will be following up with Berean to be sure the lab is operational, she added.
“This is a big accomplishment, but we have a great deal more to do,” Swan said. “Making sure that the lab is used and maintained is a priority for us.”
In 2015, the CRC donated 10 computers to Gather the People House of Prayer, a Baptist church on 15th Street near Clearfield. The congregation’s leader, Pastor Yvonne Yates, said the last time her church communicated with Temple about the CRC’s donations was the day the computers were installed.
She added that right now, all 10 of the computers are not being used because the church can’t afford to staff the labs, and she’s unaware of their current condition.
“We don’t have a teacher,” Yates said. “The computers could be used if we had someone to come in and help with them.”
Carol Smith, executive director of the Beckett Life Center, a community center on 16th Street near Jefferson, had a similar experience. She has not been contacted by Temple since her center’s 12 computers were installed in 2014. Six of the 12 computers are not in working condition, she said.
“I really need to get them back up to speed,” Smith said. “Because our residents are going to be using them for [job] training.”
Smith added that she has never reached out to Temple for help with her center’s computer lab because she didn’t know who to contact. She said she plans on reaching out to the CRC.
Latko said donation sites should expect the average computer donation to be functional for two to three years.
“Temple University doesn’t have enough people to do straight tech support to the entire Philadelphia area and all the people we donate to,” Latko said. “If you give somebody a car and it runs out of gas, do you expect them to call the dealer back up and be like, ‘Hey, my car ran out of gas?’”
The CRC donated 10 computers to Helping Energize & Rebuild Ourselves, a community organization that offers support to low-income families on 17th Street near Tioga, in 2015. Its director Doris Phillips said seven of those donations are in working condition.
University volunteers who serve at the center, unaffiliated with the CRC, have been trying to fix the nonfunctioning computers.
“We want to thank Temple for their donation and helping us out with our computer lab,” Phillips said. “The children are really interested. We appreciate what Temple has done.”
Latko said he must “lean on” the Office of Community Relations to field inquiries that donation sites may have.
In an additional interview with The Temple News about community organizations’ feedback, Swan said she would reach out to Gather the People House of Prayer, the Beckett Life Center and Helping Energize & Rebuild Ourselves to address their concerns.
“The Office of Community Relations certainly encourages a constant stream of communication,” Swan said. “The computers are donated for their usage and for their maintenance. … If they reached out to us to request computers, they should reach out to us with any questions about the computers.”
Swan added that her office will be “more vocal” with organizations that receive donations from the program in the future.
“It’s obvious that there is a disconnect that needs to be addressed,” she added.