If you’ve spent any time driving through Maine with the radio on, you’ve inevitably heard Celeste Baranyi. The co-host of the WBLM morning show and host of the mid-day show on sister station WCYY, Celeste has brought her signature energy and humor to the Maine airwaves since 1989. As if those two jobs weren’t enough, Celeste is also the Public Service Director at Townsquare Media. In this role, Celeste is able to give nonprofit organizations like give IT. get IT. the opportunity to connect with thousands of listeners on ALL of Townsquare Media’s stations via her “Perspectives” podcast.
After seeing give IT. get IT. on the news, Celeste asked us to be on Perspectives, and our development specialist was happy to oblige!
Listen to the entire 13-minute interview below to learn:
NOTE: Jim accidentally shared that over the past 21 years, we’ve recycled a million pounds of electronics. The actual number is TEN MILLION pounds of electronics!
Please share this story with anyone with unwanted technology we can recycle or who you think may be interested in supporting our organization with a tax-deductible donation!
Celeste: Good morning. This is Perspectives. I’m Celeste Baranyi. This morning, my guest is Jim Darroch, development specialist for give It. get It.. Good morning, Jim.
Jim: Good morning, Celeste.
Celeste: Tell me a little bit about how give It. get It. started and what you do there.
Jim: Sure thing. So give It. get It.’s roots go back all the way to 2002 when co-founders Chris Martin and Jody Martin were looking for a way to, just frankly, stay in Maine. Chris had lost his job after 9/11 at a sign-making company, and he literally bought a book called Non-profits for Dummies and learned how to start his own non-profit, where basically he learned how to teach people how to refurbish electronics and learn how to use them. PCS for Maine was the original name of the organization, and that was not about helping people rebuild computers but rather just acquire them and learn how to use them.
Celeste: Why is having a computer so important, and what are some of the barriers that people have getting them?
Jim: Absolutely, so believe it or not, in the state of Maine, our partners at Digitunity estimate that there are 65,000 households that don’t have computers in them. As we all learned during the pandemic when we couldn’t go to work I had to work remotely, attend classes online, if you didn’t have a computer to do, that you were immediately left behind. So having a computer these days — we say it’s as important as clean air and water.
Celeste: And what are some of the barriers that people face in getting a computer into their home?
Jim: The number one problem is expenses, and let’s face it, everything’s so much more expensive these days, and that goes double for computers, so when you’re struggling to make your rent or just put food on the table, buying a thousand dollar laptop or a desktop computer is just prohibitively expensive.
Celeste: And so how does it work? How do people obtain a laptop from you guys?
Jim: Sure thing. There are two qualifications to getting into what we call our digital inclusion program. Your household income has to be within $200 of the federal poverty level. To put that in perspective, that’s like a single person trying to get by on twenty six thousand dollars a year. In addition to that, we insist on you having some sort of attainable education career or wellness goal that could be going back to school to get your GED, advanced education, you know bachelors, associates degree or an associate program. You want to become a medical biller or something to that effect, you need to take classes online, and then, finally, for you know for seniors who just need to connect to their doctors online or just stay in touch with families, that’s also what we would consider to be in a goal for the program.
Celeste: Where do these computers come from that you are passing on to other people?
Jim: That’s the magic of give It. get It. We collect unwanted devices from businesses all over New England. These are computers that were probably brand new, two thousand dollars. They’re high performance machines and we collect them at their places of business and bring them to Waterville Maine where we take them all apart. We provide our clients with Certifications of Destruction. We destroy all the data so they don’t have to and then our team goes to work on on turning them into brand new machines. Well, not brand new, but pretty darn close. We put new operating systems, software customized to each person’s need, and then we ship those devices to their door.
Celeste: Do you handle different kinds of equipment other than computers?
Jim: We do. We handle everything, every kind of electronic device that you no longer need. We will take at give It. get It. at 60 industrial Street in Waterville. Some of the stuff cannot be reused or resold, and we have a network of Downstream recyclers who will literally pound those devices into particles. Literally, just everything except the casings around the wires is the only thing that can’t be reused. We get all kinds of interesting stuff that’s not right for our program, whether that’s, you know, an antique Sony Watchman or really sophisticated video conferencing or giant printers. We actually sell those devices on our eBay store and that funds our program that pays our people. We have 14 full-time employees that we pay twenty dollars an hour minimum. It keeps the gas in our trucks and helps us do what we do. Selling the devices that we can’t use is critical so we’ll take everything
Celeste: Okay, and so who do you appeal to? To different businesses and schools who might be getting new equipment things like that?
Jim: That’s exactly right. One of our largest and longest-standing clients is Idexx Laboratories.
Celeste: My husband works there!
Jim: No way! I did not know that. That’s awesome. Well, let him know when he comes home tonight that literally every single device from every Idexx office around the world comes to Waterville Maine. They’ve been in tremendous supporters of our program we’re so grateful for them as well as Bangor Savings Bank. Systems Engineering is a big supporter of us. We recently just started working with LL Bean, and we’re going to start taking their devices as well. We’re super psyched about that.
Celeste: And so there’s a definitely an environmental aspect to this.
Jim: No question about it. It’s a real complicated story about what we do and uh then our zero landfill policy is you know a great example of that. Number one is reusing the devices; that’s the best way to keep things out of the landfill, and it’s always what we prefer to do. But when things are just past their prime or just can’t be reused like I said we will not put anything in the landfill except again those casings around the wires for some reason we just can’t find a reuse for that but it’s a pretty nominal amount when you consider that I think we processed over a million pounds of electronics over our 22-year history.
Celeste: Wow, and what is the goal for give It. get It.?
Jim: Really, it’s digital equity, right? And the way we achieve that is by putting devices, and it’s not just the devices. When you work with our program, we’ll be working with you to make sure you get the right device for you whether it’s a desktop, we have three different levels of laptops depending on your needs, and then we’re going to train you. We’re going to, help you learn how to use that device. There’s going to be videos loaded right on it to help you just kind of get started. Then if you have any kind of question or something’s not working, you can call us. Our tech support is available weekdays from 7 A.M to 4 P.M, and you’ll get a real person answering that phone and walking you through anything. Whether it’s I need to know how to do something in Microsoft Word or my computer is just not quite working, can you walk me through it, you will get the kind of help you need that you’ll never get from a retail store of any kind.
Celeste: That’s amazing to have that kind of support, and I know that when I first started using a computer, it was pretty complicated to me if it’s something that you haven’t had exposure to, so it’s wonderful that not only do people have access to computers but also the support so that they can use them efficiently that’s amazing, and do you give them for free or is there a cost?
Jim: There is a cost to we do this for two reasons: one it costs us from soup to nuts — from picking up at like Idexx Laboratories offices, bringing them to our office, breaking them down, rebuilding them — it costs us about sixteen hundred dollars per device to do all of that. The last mile cost is the one-on-one interaction with each user. Again, we asked them all kinds of questions, we make sure that they’re qualified for one, and then we just pair them up with the device, the software, and any peripherals they might need. Maybe it’s a headset, an Adaptive keyboard if you’ve got some physical challenges. That’s all part of this program. So in exchange for that, we charge participation fees ranging from 90 dollars for our basic desktop to 390 dollars for a high performance laptop, and that’s exactly what I’ve been using for the last three years, and it’s spectacular. So $399 for a laptop is a pretty good deal, but let’s face it, it’s still very expensive if you’re trying to get by on twenty six thousand dollars a year. When that happens we have a scholarship fund that we fund with donations from individuals and companies. We just picked up a fifteen thousand dollar donation from Key Bank yesterday, and we use that money to help people to really either get those costs down to a manageable number, or if they can’t do it at all if the circumstances are right, and we’ve got the money, we can do that for free. Our loan qualification is that you take an Internet safety training program just so you have some sort of extra skin in the game here. We don’t want to run the risk of people just looking at a free computer and then reselling it, and that, unfortunately, has happened in the past, so we have to be as diligent as possible on making sure we put these devices in the hands that people are not going to just stream Netflix. You’re going to go and use it for something to turn your life around and get out of cyclical poverty.
Celeste: now what do you need at give It. get It.? Do you need volunteers? Do you need monetary donations as well as material donations?
Jim: The devices are the number one thing. We need every business in Maine to recycle their tech with us, whether it’s a small business — you know a couple of people — or a giant Corporation. Ask your it department where does our IT go, and if they don’t know or the answer to that doesn’t make you feel proud, give us a call. We really would love the opportunity to talk with them about that. And then as I was saying, we need to pay our bills just like everyone else and we also want to keep our participation fees as low as possible. The way to do that is donations. We would love that. You can go to giveitgetit.org and click on the give it button, and that’s where you can find more information about working with us as a recycling partner or donating to us. And the same goes with the get it side of it. If you need a computer from us , we know that if you don’t have a computer at home you’re going to have a hard time accessing our website, so the number there is 207-338-4233. Again if you call between seven and three PM you’ll get a live person who can talk you through the application process.
Celeste: So here at the radio station nation, we don’t have laptops that we can donate to you but sometimes we have radio equipment that stops working or whatever and instead of sending it off to the landfill, I’m just wondering what kind of breadth of technology you accept that you can resell. If I had something over here that stopped working, could you resell it?
Jim: Reselling it? We don’t know. It depends on the condition that it’s in, but we’ve sold just about all kinds of crazy stuff from medical equipment. There was something that we got out of an airport – it was a crazy-looking device that was about the size of a refrigerator. I don’t know if that actually sold, but the bottom line is inside each of those devices, there are some precious metals and things of that nature that can actually fund our program. The scrap metal is a legitimate industry there, and there’s a value inside each of these devices, so again, if we can’t resell it, we can probably extract some money out of it that ultimately funds the program to get these devices into the hands of people who need them.
Celeste: Okay, so the message is to people who are listening right now who are in different industries, different workspaces, take a look around, and if it’s electronic and it doesn’t work anymore, you should call give it, get it and see if it’s something that you could possibly donate.
Jim: Absolutely, and I mean, we’re not going to throw shade on anyone’s current recycling partner. There are a lot of good and legitimate ones out there, but the simple fact is this: no one is going to put your unwanted electronics to better use to help people than give It. get It..
Celeste: Now is this the only branch of give It. get It. in Waterville?
Jim: Yes, that’s right, we do serve folks in New Hampshire as well. There was an organization called Computer Technology Assistance Corporation that was essentially the New Hampshire equivalent of us, and they, unfortunately, folded when the founder and executive director passed away. They were a really small organization, so we stepped in. While we don’t have an office in Manchester, we’ve taken on all of those relationships with the various Departments of Health and Human Services that work one-on-one with people who need a lot of services in their lives, and a computer is one of them. We have those same relationships in Maine. We work with Eastern Maine Development Corporation, The Hope program, and again, a lot of Departments of Health and Human Services to help all kinds of people who are, you know, working hard to get out of their current situations and live better, more fulfilling, and productive lives and need a computer to do that.
Celeste: I think it’s amazing that Chris and Jody Martin came up with this whole Enterprise, and it’s just so wonderful. Thank you, Jim, for all you’re doing to help the community because I think about all the families who need a computer in their home. It’s really difficult to get through school or have a job without that access.
Jim: It really is, and it’s not getting easier, you know, everything’s super expensive, and we’re sensitive to that. We see it all the time, and if we can help people get out of that cycle of working multiple minimum wage jobs and train for a better career that’s going to just be one job that puts the food on the table and pays your rent and that, you know, makes you feel good. That’s what we want to do. We want to give you that power right a computer, the knowledge to use it, and again the confidence just to go out and try new things and learn new skills and live the life you’ve always wanted to live.
Celeste: Thank you, Jim, so much for being with us this morning, and once again, give It. get It.. You can reach out to them if you have something to donate or if you are looking for a computer that you need to make your life better. So Jim, thanks for your time this morning.
Jim: Thanks, Celeste, appreciate it.
Celeste: We’ve been speaking with Jim Darroch, development specialist for give It. get It.. I’m Celeste Baranyi. This has been Perspectives.