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‘Keep IT Green’ Provides Jobs for Disabled, Low-Cost Computers

ServiceSource program on Edsall Road provides refurbished computers at a low cost while employing people with disabilities.

Western Alexandria is home to a program that employs workers with disabilities to recycle and refurbish used computers while making a contribution to the community as a whole.

ServiceSource, a leading national disability resource nonprofit with an Alexandria location on Edsall Road, has operated the “Keep IT Green” program since 2001 but has increased the program’s capacity since then by not only recycling computers, but putting salvageable units back together, loading software and selling the computers at a reduced price to local schools.

All parts are recycled, sold to vendors or refurbished into new computers, and no waste enters local landfills. The program employs 48 workers.

ServiceSource General Manager Gabe Rubalcava, oversees the Keep IT Green program, said his workers refurbish about nine to 15 computers every day and load software including Microsoft Office.

“The gist of that program is to decrease the digital divide,”  he said. “That’s the impetus behind the program. But what we want to do is not only give our guys something to do, but also contribute to the society as well. So it’s like a circle of life.”

ServiceSource gathers computers and other electronics from Alexandria and Fairfax County residents who drop them off at collection stations or bring them to the Edsall Road location. The proceeds from the computer sales go directly to pay for wages for the ServiceSource workers. The program generates about $500,000 per year and is growing.

ServiceSource works with the Fairfax County Public Schools PTA to sell desktop computers preloaded with Windows 7 software to students at a low cost and partners with the Arlington nonprofit Computers 4 Students to provide the same computer starting at about $100.

The program currently employs 86 local residents. According to ServiceSource, dismantling computers is ideal work for people with disabilities because it is made up of small tasks, and there is no time limit on the job, allowing employees to work at their own pace.

Rubalcava said this year the facility will process approximately 1.2 to 1.3 million pounds of electronics drop-offs from Fairfax County and another 300,000 pounds from the city of Alexandria. In September, Fairfax County awarded ServiceSource its Environmental Excellence award for the Keep IT Green program.

“It’s really a great deal,” said ServiceSource spokeswoman Taylor Ham. “ … And it does pay the wages of people with disabilities, so it’s a nice kind of feedback loop.”

David Trincellito, a ServiceSource worker who uploads software for the program, was recently helping refurbish computers during Patch’s stop at ServiceSource.

“Franky, I love being with all these wonderful individuals and helping them learn their craft and better themselves,”  he said.

To drop off an unwanted computer, visit ServiceSource at 6295 Edsall Rd., Suite 175, between 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For questions, call 703-461-6000. You can learn more about ServiceSource by visiting the nonprofit’s webpage.

View a photo gallery of the program here.

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