Years ago, Schroeder was approached by someone who wanted to start an e-waste recycling program but thought Lyon County couldn’t do it. Obstacles such as personal data and program costs were first in Schroeder’s mind. “And that’s where the county council came in, and Commissioner Sanow said, you know, maybe it’s not something that’s going to make us money, but it’s the right thing. to do,” Schroeder said.
“I thought to myself, what if we fix old computers and give them to people who need their children,” said Lyon County Commissioner Charles Sanow. “Kids would have computers, this guy would have work, we would get things out of the landfill, we wouldn’t have to pay for them to be processed elsewhere.”
“The barriers that I saw that prevented us from allowing computer recycling, the county council was supportive of trying to overcome those barriers,” Schroeder said. “And all of a sudden we were refurbishing computers and putting them back into the community.”
In 2018, ResQZone was operational. ResQZone is a partnership between Lyon County and Advance Opportunities. The county contracts with Advance – also located in Marshall – to provide refurbishment personnel. The advance covers things like insurance, workers compensation, job coaching, any support the worker may need.
“Advance is a place for people with disabilities, but I like to think of them as people with unique abilities,” said Elizabeth Schear, CEO of Advance Opportunities. “What we do every day is look for ways to find the right niche for a person to match their skills, abilities and desires with the perfect job or the best job they love. Advance started with ResQZone supporting the person who started the ResQZone, the brains behind the project.”
It’s Jason Redepenning. “I’m the IT guy here. One of the people helping me, they asked me what I’d like to do, one of those little dream things. ‘What would you like to do for the rest of your life for work? “And I told them I just wanted to fix the computers and give them to people.”
Redepenning, who has autism and ADHD, is someone who thrives working among servers and screens and has always had an innate drive to help people. ResQZone is a safe place for Redepenning to do both of these things. Redepenning works three days a week and is paid by the county, which makes money from the resale of high-end computers and tablets.
Kylie Peterson works for Advance and is Redepenning’s Direct Support Professional. “So I help him with whatever he needs while he’s here,” she said.
Their refurbishment process goes something like this: The product is given away, sometimes one item at a time, and “sometimes companies come in and they just give away the whole palette,” Redepenning said. “A big pile of them and then we’ll have to go through them. Turkey Valley gave us some and we’re going through them now. [We] find the ones with too many turkey feathers, we throw them away. Kylie is a little disgusted with the turkey feathers.”
“Who wouldn’t? laughed Peterson.
Then Redepenning and Peterson take inventory and clean up produce, turkey feathers and all. “And then I start going through it and I see all the pieces are there. And then we wipe it down,” Redepenning said. They delete all personal data and then the computer is imaged using a server.
“The server is basically a dedicated computer. That dedicated computer does one job and one job, and it contains these files called images,” Redpenning said, reviewing his process. “These images are not like pictures, like photos, they are complete computers already created in a small file. And what this computer does is that when we connect other computers to the network, we can spit Windows 10 or other on all these computers.”
“Our local IT department, Computers and Beyond, has helped us solve some of the most complex issues we face,” Schroeder said. “They helped Jason create a server so he could download multiple machines with the right software at the same time.”
Then it goes to the shelf, ready for its new life of web browsing and computing.
Between 2014 and 2018, Lyon County went from recycling 17,692 pounds of e-waste to 2,132. Schroeder said raising awareness of ResQZone has increased the total volume of electronics they receive, about half of which are old systems that ResQZone cannot use. This has increased their e-waste recycling output over the past three years. Over the past three years, ResQZone has released 420 computer systems for public use and half of them have been distributed in the past year as Lyon County identified more needs in area schools. , especially with COVID-19.
“We set up the structure to be needs-based, initially working with United Community Action and the Southwest Center for Independent Living and some of these other service organizations,” Schroeder said. “Then when the pandemic hit, we thought, ‘well, we need to extend this to schools, if they need it.’
Schroeder said the county distributes the computers this way because it wants to know people’s financial information. “So how we’ve set it up, if you have a child who gets free and reduced lunches, if you’re a veteran, if you’re someone who receives services from one of these other organizations based on income, then we just need the approval that you receive those services, and that qualifies you,” Schroeder explained. “So we’re not asking for detailed personal information about anyone, because that’s already done by another organization.”
Although this project required additional human bandwidth, Roger Schroeder believes that now that they have fixed the bugs, it could be a plug and play operation. “As long as you can find the right person who can refurbish the machine, it can work, our space, our footprint is very small. We already collect the machines. So I think it would be easy to replicate throughout the state,” he said.