Free Geek to open in Twin Cities

Volunteers will be able to earn a free computer through their work.

Free Geek Twin Cities co-founder Amanda Luker takes a quiz during the Geekathlon at Grumpys Grill and Bar on Saturday.

Free Geek Twin Cities co-founder Amanda Luker takes a quiz during the Geekathlon at Grumpy’s Grill and Bar on Saturday.

by Carter Haaland

Free Geek Twin Cities, a new nonprofit will be opening in October in Minneapolis, with a mission to educate people about computers and practice responsible recycling. The organization is modeled on Free Geek , a nonprofit in Portland, Ore., established in 2000. The group operates by enlisting volunteers who are interested in gaining hands-on experience fixing computers. Co-founder Alan Palazzolo said there are two levels of involvement for volunteers. When volunteers work for 24 hours, they do simpler tasks like sorting parts. When they volunteer for longer, volunteers actually refurbish the computers. Both types of volunteering allow people to take home a free computer. âÄú[Refurbishing computers] gives them training and comfort with how computers and software works and how to troubleshoot it if something doesnâÄôt work the way they think it should,âÄù said Curtis Griesel, a volunteer with the group. People of any age can volunteer, Palazzolo said. He said the group wants to provide a hands-on approach to people who are not familiar with computers and give them confidence. âÄúItâÄôs very much a knowledge building and community exercise as much as it is a computer building exercise,âÄù Griesel said. Through their recycling efforts, the group tries âÄúto give one more generation of life to a computer,âÄù Griesel said. This keeps parts from piling up in the landfill and saves new parts from being used. The organization is conscientious about how they dispose of the parts when they are too old to reuse, Griesel said. Brian Dunnette , one of the founders, said the group had been looking for a space for about two years. The organizationâÄôs location at 3405 Chicago Ave. will be ready to open in October. The group hosted a âÄúGeekathlonâÄù fundraiser Saturday at GrumpyâÄôs Bar on Washington Avenue. The fundraiser featured 91 questions focused on Internet videos, identifying geeks from history through their photographs, computer games and anime. When Palazzolo lived in Portland, he spent some time volunteering at Free Geek. âÄúIâÄôve seen it work,âÄù Palazzolo said. âÄúItâÄôs just a matter of making it happen.âÄù