2020 brought with it countless changes for individuals around the globe. As the deadly coronavirus began spreading across continents, with the first known cases of COVID-19 in the U.S.A. identified in the state of Washington in January 2020, change began sweeping the nation. Businesses and schools shuttered their doors, family members lost their jobs or experienced major shifts in their work, and seeing friends and family members outside of our household became a distant hope.
Looking back, many months of 2020 were filled with uncertainty and fear. However, in those moments of uncertainty, we saw our local communities stepping up to take care of one another, whether that was by dropping off groceries at their doorsteps, checking in with them to make sure they were feeling alright, or working tirelessly to ensure their patients, students, or customers received the care and support they needed. We applaud the medical staff, teachers, essential workers, and community members who stepped up to provide support in a time of great need.
Changes At Computer Reach
Here at Computer Reach, we experienced changes in 2020 as well. Not only did we move our Warehouse to the Wilkinsburg community of Pittsburgh, but we also underwent major shifts in our daily operations to ensure that our staff could work safely during the pandemic. Shared spaces were turned into socially-distant offices, friendly faces were partially covered with face masks, and frequently used surfaces were sanitized on a regular basis.
To offer affordable technologies to our local communities in a safe and socially-distanced way, we launched our new Curbside Pickup program to ensure that digital devices were still available to those in need. In addition to that, we launched our new Computer Lottery Program to award up to 16 individuals in Pittsburgh each week with a complimentary Desktop Computer Bundle. These are only a few of the changes that our organization experienced during the last year and we are proud of our staff for putting in the time and effort to adapt to our organization’s “new normal.”
In addition to recognizing the challenges of last year, we believe that it is important to recognize the good that had happened as well. With that, we would like to take a moment to reflect back on 2020 and the work that happened during such an unforgettable year. These achievements would not have been possible without the support of our dedicated staff, project partners, and generous donors.
Moving Our Warehouse to Wilkinsburg
In February 2020, Computer Reach moved into our new Warehouse at 1 DRV Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15208. We are thankful for the 10 years we spent at Construction Junction and we are looking forward to the opportunities that will be possible at our new location.
Although our Warehouse is not currently open to the public due to COVID-19, we look forward to one day utilizing our designated sales floor to its full extent. For now, our office spaces are seeing great use as socially distanced workspaces for our employees. Learn more about our move.
Beyond the Laptops Project
In 2020, it was reported that more than 7,000 students in Pittsburgh Public Schools did not have access to a home computer. To get these families connected, Computer Reach partnered with Neighborhood Allies to refurbish 1,000 computers that we would later distribute to families. The problem: we didn’t have enough power adapters to charge them.
Thanks to the support of the University of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Technology Council, we were able to successfully refurbish the devices and distribute 599 free laptops to Pittsburgh Public Schools students through the Beyond the Laptops project. In addition to this, 401 laptops were distributed to local nonprofit agencies.
Computer Lottery Program
Due to the high demand for computers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Computer Reach launched our new Computer Lottery Program. Each week up to sixteen people in the Pittsburgh area are selected to win a free desktop computer bundle while supplies last.
Each desktop computer bundle includes one desktop computer, one computer monitor, one keyboard, one mouse, and all cords necessary to operate the machine. In 2020, Computer Reach distributed 188 free Desktop Computer Bundles through this program.
After completing our move in February, we were looking forward to opening an in-person retail store to sell low-cost computers to Pittsburgh residents. However, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and we had to quickly pivot those plans. With the demand for computers higher than ever, it was clear that we had to develop a new, socially-distanced way to get affordable computers into the hands of families. In response, we created our Curbside Pickup Program.
Through Curbside Pickup, community members can view available devices online and schedule an appointment to pay for and pick up their device at the Computer Reach Warehouse. To maintain the safety of our customers and staff, appointments are required. Visiting customers must wear masks and practice social distancing.
Getting Elementary School Students Connected
Computer Reach partnered with the EQT Foundation, Crown Castle, and Leech Tishman Fuscaldo Lampl to distribute laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots to elementary school students in the Bentworth and McGuffey School Districts. Each family received:
- one Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Yoga 1st Gen,
- Sprint Educational Broadband Wi-Fi (one year of fully prepaid internet),
- and Computer Reach Support for one full year.
All costs for the laptops, WiFi hotspots, internet access, and technical support were covered at no cost to families. Families were able to keep the laptops indefinitely.
Getting North Hills Seniors Digitally Connected
Computer Reach launched a North Hills Community Outreach Project to distribute 13 All-In-One Desktops and 13 Wi-Fi Hotspots (equipped with 12 months of pre-paid internet) to 13 seniors identified by North Hills Community Outreach. Our External Consultant Karen Kendall provided two hours of technical support to each senior. During her visits, Karen wore Personal Protective Equipment and followed COVID-19 safety recommendations to keep each recipient safe.
iPads Distributed to 12 Schools in Pennsylvania
Due to school shutdowns and restricted school operations, countless students in Pennsylvania have not been able to access the special education services they need to thrive. In an effort to support these students and their teachers, Computer Reach launched a new iPad Distribution project in collaboration with The Education Partnership and Uber Advanced Technologies Group.
Through the project, we distributed 245 iPads to special education students and teachers at 12 schools in Pennsylvania. Through this distribution, special education teachers were able to implement a digital curriculum and provide special education services to their students remotely.
Final Numbers In 2020
Computer Reach distributed 3,311 devices (including 3,217 computers and 94 hotspots with internet) and responsibly recycled 6,000 pounds of e-waste.
Take time this year to not only reflect on the bad that happened last year but to also remember the moments you are proud of or that you enjoyed. Maybe those moments were shared experiences with your family members, or more time at home with a pet. Maybe you accomplished one of your goals, welcomed a new child, or learned to cook a new meal. Even if none of these examples applied to you, even if you were only able to make it through the year, that is something to be proud of.
With COVID-19 vaccinations started, our nation is getting closer to the day when we can take off our face masks, share a conversation with a co-worker at work, and resume in-person business and school operations. Here at Computer Reach, we are excited to see what 2021 has to bring and we look forward to our continued work to get families digitally connected and digitally literate.