Agency offers opportunity to "earn" computers

DANVILLE – Gayle Savoree wanted a computer to practice keyboarding skills and get back in the work force.

Now, she not only has a computer, but also a job, thanks to a new nonprofit organization in Danville.

Web Innovations & Technology Services came to Danville on a fluke when company president Angela Haas took a wrong turn, but the information she got about the area made it a good place to do business. The donation of two buildings hasn't hurt either.

Juanita Hoskins, Trudy Carter and Savoree painted and cleaned in the Griggs Street location and Savoree also learned some clerical and computer skills.

Work has also begun at the old Eagle Country Store on Bowman Avenue.

Carter, 46, of Danville was given a computer with an Intel Pentium 4 processor for 60 hours of service spent painting and doing general cleaning.

"My computer was just outdated and I wanted a new one," she said. "The hours went really fast. My volunteer work has led to a full-time position here too."

For the 55-year-old Savoree, the story was similar.

"I came here through the Agency on Aging," she said. "I wanted a computer because I needed a job. I've been trying, unsuccessfully, to get disability. When I became 55, I could receive help from the Agency on Aging. Now, they will pay for me to work here doing clerical work. Once this place is really up and running, there will be a lot of jobs."

Savoree was given a computer with a Pentium 3 processor and will later get a printer when one becomes available, in exchange for her 50 volunteer hours.

"Getting a computer can be pretty easy for people who don't have a lot of money," Haas said.

Haas' initial recycling center in the St. Louis area has made itself 100 percent self-sustaining since opening in 2004, and she expects Danville will eventually do the same. Right now, she is looking for people and recyclables.

Haas will partner with Mervis Industries and the Vermilion County Health Department's recycling program to celebrate America Recycles Day on Nov. 15 by holding a collection Nov. 16 and 17. The partners support the nonprofit through sponsoring advertising to bring in materials to be recycled.

More material to be recycled will bring more independence for the organization, Haas said.

"This is a perfect event for us to partner on," said Lynn Wolgamot, Vermilion County recycling coordinator. "Paying for advertising will bring more awareness to the event. WITS fills a niche for us. If they can be available on a daily basis for things we have to pay a recycling vendor to pick up during annual events, it will free up money to be used on other efforts."

Haas is trying to set up speaking engagements throughout the community to explain her program.

"Everyone always thinks I'm going to ask for money," she said with a laugh. "The first thing I say is, 'I want your stuff, and not only can you bring it to me, but you can write it off, because we are a tax deductible organization.'

"We have a 100 percent no-landfill policy. We want to find a way to recycle everything we take in," she said.

The St. Louis site went into full-scale operation in August 2004. As of December 2005, it processed 1.5 million pounds of recyclables, followed by 3 million pounds for 2006, and has already passed that mark for 2007, according to Haas.

At the office at 1017 Griggs St., volunteer applicants get a brochure to see what the organization is about. The application helps place volunteers according to their known skills and skills they wish to learn.

"A $5 fee basically covers the paper and ink of the application," Haas said. "We find the small investment usually means they are serious about coming back."

Volunteer and paid work can include clerical, janitorial, painting, sorting recyclables, and even breaking up recyclables.

"We are not in competition with other recyclers or social service agencies. We want to be their end vendor," Haas said. "We actually want what they would throw away, so we can keep it out of the landfill."

The volunteers can get a working computer with basic software by completing a set number of work hours. For seniors, 30 hours is required for one with a Pentium 3 processor and 40 hours for one with a Pentium 4. For the general public, it is 40 hours for a Pentium 3 and 60 hours for a Pentium 4. Additional hours are required for a printer.

For information, call the office at 442-9487.



How to earn your own computer

What:Web Innovations &Technology Services' volunteer program.

Where:1017 Griggs St., Danville.

Who:Anyone who needs a computer at home or for a nonprofit, church or social service agency in exchange for volunteer hours. You must be 12 or older and complete an application.

For donations: All electronics and computers for reuse and recycling.

Also acceptable: All computer-related equipment and cables; networking equipment; servers; telecommunications equipment; phones; clocks; small household electronics; audio-visual equipment; all appliances; lawn equipment; tools; old mowers, tillers, motors and transformers; car and lead-containing batteries; and clean clothing, shoes and linens to be shredded for use in making quilts and blankets for Third World countries.

Hazardous material fee: $5 for computer monitors and screens and large appliances; $10 for televisions.

Information: Call 442-9487 or go online to http://witsinc.org/.

Office hours and drop-off times:9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Sections (2):News, Business
Topics (1):Technology
Categories (3):News, Technology, Business

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