Phoenixville teen spearheads large donation of laptops

For the past four years, I have been volunteering for TeamChildren, an organization working tirelessly to bridge the achievement gap. This means that we are committed to getting computers into the homes and schools of children who cannot afford new ones.

Companies like Sanofi, Wawa and Eagleville Hospital, along with other committed organizations and individuals, have donated over 12,500 computers to our cause.

These machines, carefully refurbished and upgraded by a team composed almost entirely of volunteers, have reached and transformed the lives of over 60,000 children in this region. This winter, I am launching a project in which I will collect 120 or more laptop and desktop computers over 120 days. This will help TeamChildren expand its outreach.

My goal is to get leaders of organizations, principals of schools, and all sorts of people from the community involved in this exciting mission. My aunt has already donated 10 laptops from her company, and I am making phone calls and sending emails every week to get more people on my team.

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These 120 machines will be refurbished, repaired and upgraded. They will then be made available to families, schools and organizations in need throughout out the greater Delaware Valley. These will be made available for a small administrative fee — from $65 to $225. Each recipient is required to submit a letter telling us how the computer will help them. This letter should consist of an explanation as to why they cannot afford a new computer, and how this computer will help them. There are a few other contributions we request, which you can learn about by calling 610-666-1795 or visiting www.teamchildren.org. Everyone who writes a letter will receive a computer, and computers can be picked up at our technology center in Audubon.

My work at TeamChildren began out of my interest in computers when I was 14. I visited the technology center one day, and found the most comprehensive refurbishing operation I had ever seen. Stacks and stacks of incoming desktops, and tables and carts full of laptops occupied the center’s floor, showing me just how many people contributed to this cause. I was blown away by how committed this organization was — not to making money off of these machines, but to providing as many people in our region as possible with a working computer.

Now, after four years as a technician and administrative assistant, I’ve seen the project expand, with the refurbishing process growing more streamlined and versatile. Windows 7 has replaced Windows XP as the operating system on all of our machines. We’ve found ways to use even the most basic hardware configurations, with Linux and other software giving new life to old systems.

Most importantly, some exciting learning software has become a standard installation on every computer TeamChildren provides. BrillKids and AWE’s ELF child-safe web browser have made our machines even more versatile tools for learning.

Unfortunately, TeamChildren is now facing a setback, in that we’ve nearly run out of laptops to make available to excited children and their families. I’ve watched the laptop desk shrink from stacks and stacks of machines to around just ten, as of this week. I started this project with a commitment to solving this problem.

However, we are happy to accept any donation offered, and I am not stopping at the 120-machine mark. Donations of any sort are always welcome. You can contribute financially, volunteer with us, or talk to us about any other way you can help make a difference.

TeamChildren is a nonprofit organization located at 960 Rittenhouse Rd. in Audubon, PA 19403. Their phone number is 610-666-1795. Please visit www.teamchildren.org for more information.

Phoenixville resident Daniel Berger is a freshman at Montgomery County Community College and is taking a course in self-expression and leadership through Landmark Education. His project is to have 120 laptops donated to TeamChildren by April 15.