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Each year the
International Computer Refurbishers Summit awards a lifetime achievement award.
This year the award went to Nancy Jo Craig who runs the nonprofit Capital Area
Corporate Recycling Council (CACRC) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It was not an
easy road for Nancy. A short time after she took over a small troubled computer
refurbishment nonprofit - hurricane Katrina hit.
To be sure, Nancy Jo Craig is an accomplished woman. She is a poet, an
environmental activist, and a nonprofit management expert with a masters degree
in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. When
she ran the Nature Conservancy in Louisiana, 200,000 acres were set aside.
After she mentored the Foundation For Friends of Nature in Bolivia, a million
acres of natural habitat were put in to public trust.
By 2004 she had come back to her hometown of Baton Rouge and was working
as a management consultant to a failing nonprofit. She was helping the board to
decide to either close Capital Area Corporate Recycling Council or reorganize
it. They persuaded her to run the place long enough to get it back on its feet.
It was a lucky thing they did. In August of 2005, she had barely begun getting
things in order when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck.
All of southern Louisiana had been hit. Thousands of people were pouring
into Baton Rouge. The city ballooned to twice its original size in a matter of
days. The electricity was out for week. Volunteer techies had set up an online
people finder database, and relief agencies desperately needed computers so
refugees in shelters could search for their loved ones. CACRC suddenly became
the most famous refurbisher in the country. They needed a capable person in
Places like TechSoup and the National Cristina Foundation put out the
word that donated computers were badly needed in Louisiana, and they came by
the truckload. They came from Alaska, from ad agencies on Madison Avenue, from
everywhere. Nancy Jo recalls that it was a mess. Actually the biggest need was
for laptop bags to serve as suitcases for refugees.
CACRC quickly scaled up to meet the computer needs of relief
organizations, and then schools that opened up, and also low-income families. All
the equipment went out at no cost because of financial donations. Nancy Jo
notes that CACRC became a as much a service organization as a recycling
operation as a result of the Katrina work. The organization looks for
opportunities to serve disadvantaged communities wherever it can. Nancy Jo's and CACRC's work in frontline disaster relief was featured in Sundance Channel's "Big Ideas For A Small Planet" series.
Nancy Jo Craig receiving her lifetime achievement award from Willie Cade and Jim Lynch
It is now years later and Nancy Jo is still there. She leads a leaner,
more efficient staff (who respectfully call her Ms. Nancy), and the demand for low-cost computers in southern
Louisiana is still strong. They have capacity to turn out 12,000 PC’s per year,
but CACRC now charges a nominal amount to schools, nonprofits, and low-income
families. “It just works better that way.” She says.
Another reason Nancy Jo got the lifetime achievement award (called the Jim Lynch Award, named after
yours truly) was for her work to represent
the refurbishment field on Responsible
Recycling (R2) technical advisory committee in its work to revise the R2
Standards for 2013. R2 along with E-Stewards are certification programs to
insure that electronics recyclers and refurbishers practice proper e-waste disposal and
worker health practices. CACRC is one of a just a few nonprofit electronics
recyclers or refurbishers that are R2 or E-Stewards certified.
Nancy Jo says that CACRC’s next
frontier is to get computers and training to seniors. Their volunteers already do
trainings in the libraries. She has just started sheltered work program to
explore hiring developmentally disabled people in cooperation with ARC of Baton
Rouge. She hopes to hire disabled people to do demanufacturing work in which
they will take electronics devices apart to recover circuit boards and parts,
and also separate the plastics and metals in these devices. She has already
moved the organization in to this area of manual recycling and earns fully a
third of the organization’s operating expenses from this area of work. CACRC is
an social enterprise in that it does not need to rely on grants to keep
She has also just published a book of poetry, “On
The Advice of Rumi.” Her bio in the book sums her up: “She shares her life with
happy dogs, grumpy cats, box turtles, and some rare humans. She is a practicing
Buddhist who believes it would be worth reincarnating just to eat chocolate.”
Images: bloggernews.net, TechSoup Global
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.
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