CARY — How many donated computers can two teenagers with no business experience and no car collect in a month?
About 170, give or take a cellphone or desktop monitor.
Green Hope High School students Griffin College and Jasper Brindis, president and vice president of the school’s Computer Club, had modest expectations in late August when they set out to collect old computers and cellphones. They hoped to collect as many devices as possible to donate to the Kramden Institute, a Durham-based nonprofit that refurbishes computers and gives them to underprivileged students.
“We thought we might get 15 computers and 20 cellphones,” Brindis said. “But things moved really fast, and we really overachieved.”
The duo says word of their computer drive spread quickly after they posted signs around campus, created a website, contacted the local newspaper and secured four local sponsors – Cary’s new PDQ restaurant, Planet Smoothie, Chick-fil-A, and Zpizza – which agreed to give coupons to computer donors.
Soon, donors were bringing their old computers to the Green Hope High School office, and the computer club’s email account was full.
“I think we had about 200 or 300 emails at one point,” College said.
College, 16, and Brindis, 15, met to plan computer pickups and answer emails before and after school and during lunch. But with more willing participants than anticipated, they soon realized it would be nearly impossible to find someone to drive them around Wake County each day to pick up old computers.
And what started out as their pilot charity push turned into a month-long lesson in real-world problem-solving. It seemed like they had more donation offers than time to collect. So they planned two Saturdays in September for picking up computers.
The first Saturday, Brindis and his mom, Sandra, crafted a route for collecting donations across Wake County – but they didn’t expect her Mercury sedan would be full before they were finished.
“We had to drive back from Creedmoor, unload, turn around and go back out,” Sandra Brindis said with a laugh.
The second Saturday was even busier. Using three different drivers, College and Brindis rode around Wake County and to Sanford to collect donations.
“It felt like the theme of the month was time management,” College said.
College and Brindis squirreled away piles of computer equipment in two Green Hope classrooms, their garages and their parents’ cars. They collected Macs, PCs, laptops – even a 40-inch monitor.
Cari DelMariani, director of programs for the Kramden Institute, said the computer club’s donation will be one of the largest from individuals the group has ever received. Kramden plans to award 3,000 refurbished computers this year; many of those were donated by businesses.
“We’re really fortunate that they decided to pick our organization to help,” DelMariani said of College and Brindis. “I was impressed with how well thought-out and organized the project was.”
College, a junior, and Brindis, a sophomore, hope the drive was just the first step toward achieving loftier goals.
They hope to expand their club’s reach to include volunteer work at Kramden, which wants to boost its emphasis on computer education.
They’re also considering forming their own company. As they sat in the cafeteria last week wearing shirts with the word “geek,” the jump from amateur techies to computer professionals seemed natural.
“I’m more into programming,” College said.
“And I’m more of a hardware guy,” Brindis said. “So we think it would work out well.”
By the time their potential business venture is up and running, they might even have cars.
Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht