Are you allergic to technology? Are you overwhelmed by computers and the internet? Do you freeze up when your laptop doesn’t do what you want it to do? Learning coding and having a base level of technological literacy is more and more of a necessity within today’s workforce and burgeoning tech industry. Being able to solve problems with social media, websites, and computers is extremely helpful for even navigating daily problems. But technology, computers, coding, and all that can be intimidating, especially if one does not have the money to take a pricey coding bootcamp or access to others who are proficient with technology. Sometimes we just don’t have the patience needed for navigating technological issues on our own.
FreeGeek is here to help you and the community with all those issues. FreeGeek Chicago (3411 W. Diversey Ave.) is a nonprofit space that recycles computers and other technology and provides free training, internet access, job skills and education to those who need it. Equipment is donated and volunteers help disassemble the items and test the different parts for recycling or refurbishing.
FreeGeek Chicago History
FreeGeek Chicago has been open since 2005 and was started by young nonprofit professionals who wanted to “provide computer systems at no or low cost to economically disadvantaged individuals or other nonprofits,” said Evelyn Lopez, communications coordinator of FreeGeek Chicago.
They decided to recreate the original FreeGeek model (as it was already in operation in other cities, mainly Portland) to further their agenda, Lopez said.
Members learn a wide variety of concrete skills through “hands-on” experiences by taking their free classes and exploring their volunteer program. Volunteers and members are also able to network professionally and form genuine relationships.
“This, in particular, is what I personally believe is the reason they keep coming back,” Lopez said. “The camaraderie, their mutual connection and the support they give each other make them excel and grow not only in the tech community but on a personal level.”
Lopez is proud to part of such a necessary and innovative organization that helps both the community and the planet by using recycled technology and limiting e-waste. Sustainability is a conscious effort of the nonprofit.
“I also get to see how volunteers come out of their shell,” she said. “It’s nice to know you are helping someone be a bit less lonely and a lot more connected.”
FreeGeek Chicago also benefits the community by helping thousands of individuals gain technological literacy, which arms people with knowledge at their fingertips. Volunteers are also given a “safe space to think and dream,” Lopez said.
However, she wants to be clear that FreeGeek Chicago is not a repair shop. “We will not repair for you. It’s just a time when you can get help and connect with other volunteers.”
If you are looking to get involved with FreeGeek Chicago, it has an upcoming Linux Fix-IT Day on the first Saturday of the month. On Linux Fix-IT Day, you can bring in your Linux computer and receive help. The company also has a Python class (programming language) and a hacking class. Check the calendar for upcoming classes. The Volunteer Build Program is open Friday and Sunday from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Interested in volunteering?
You must be at least 14 years or older (minors need a parental signature) to volunteer and be able to attend their volunteer orientation either on Fridays or Sundays at 11:15 a.m. Contact Evelyn Lopez at [email protected] to find out more.
Featured photo: A member of FreeGeek gets down to business dismantling computers and hard drives. Photo Courtesy FreeGeek Chicago