Too many children do not have access to an internet-capable computer at home in the Upper Ohio Valley region, but one Wheeling couple hopes to change that reality for families without the means to purchase the technology that is available today.
Second Chance Technology, a non-profit established in May by Wheeling resident Stacy Nixon, is an organization that collects donated computer hardware and refurbishes the units for families who qualify for the program. Her efforts, however, did not begin with such a goal, but instead Nixon was centered on the issue of recycling electronics in the region.
“I was a paralegal for years but decided to go back to school to get my business degree because I wanted to learn more about running our business. That’s when I went back to Wheeling Jesuit University to earn my bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership and Development,” Nixon explained. “While I was there, I had to come up with a problem in our community and try to solve it, and initially my idea concerned recycling electronics because we had a lot of computers in our basement, and we didn’t know what to do with the ones that could not be repaired for whatever reason.
“What I found is that there is a ton of information out there about recycling electronics, but then something happened. I had a mother who came to me and told me that she needed a computer for her child because the child needed to do schoolwork at home,” she said. “I offered her one of the refurbished ones that was $125, but she determined that she couldn’t afford it at that time.”
Time passed, and Nixon had forgotten the interaction, but then the mother appeared again.
“A few months later the same lady came back to the shop with a computer and told me that she had purchased a used computer but that her kids had done something with the password,” Nixon recalled. “When I started working on it, though, I could tell that it wasn’t her computer, and I had no idea how she came to have it in her possession. I didn’t know how. so I had to get the police involved.
“I located the real owner and asked him if he had sold it, and he told me no, that it was stolen from his apartment,” she reported. “When the woman came back to the store for the laptop, a detective was there to ask her some questions, and law enforcement took it from there, but it made me think about why she would do what she did. That’s when I realized the need for computers for children in our community.”
Nixon and her husband, Jim, have operated TechNXN since 2009 along Kruger Street in the Elm Grove neighborhood. The business offers both hardware and software upgrades, virus removal, memory retrieval, and the Nixons also sell computer and security equipment.
“My husband has been fixing computers for more than 20 years, so we are doing that, and we also got into the security business with selling security cameras and systems,” Nixon explained. “Thus far, we support over 30 businesses from around the Upper Ohio Valley, and we do that by maintaining the computer systems so they continue running as they should.
“Our goal is to fix the hardware and the software as much as possible so our clients can avoid buying new systems for as long as possible,” she said. “We also sell refurbished computers. Our prices are much cheaper than what you will see in the stores, and that includes both desktops and laptops, and they are usually less than $200.”
Since her non-profit began operations, Nixon has discovered 16 families for which she has been able to provide either a desktop or laptop computer, a number she is determined to grow in 2018.
“I am disappointed with that number right now; I wish I would have been able to give so many more away to the parents and the children in need. I know they are out there,” Nixon said. “I have several more computers, but I do need hard drives, and that’s where getting grants and donations comes into the picture. I have received a $3,000 gift from the Sisters of Mount St. Joseph, so those funds will go as far as I can manage.
“I wanted to donate at least 50 by the end of the year, but at this point it doesn’t look like I will reach that number, but I am very determined to spread the word more so I can reach those goals in the future,” she said. “When I was in high school, we didn’t need a computer at home, but that’s changed, and the demand is pretty high.”
Thus far, Second Chance Technology has welcomed donations from local companies, too, including the Health Plan and Bernie Glenn Insurance. Once each machine’s issues are diagnosed by Nixon and her husband, Windows 7 is installed, and most people are familiar with the operating system. From that point, the system and a printer are available for a local family in need.
The non-profit, which has partnered with the Laughlin Chapel in East Wheeling to offer local children computer access and tutoring during the week, does not have many requirements when measuring qualifications.
“Before the incident with the stolen laptop, I did not realize that there were people in our community who did not have a computer and could not even afford a refurbished one,” Nixon said. “It’s referred to as the ‘digital divide,’ but that wasn’t the world I was in because all I saw every day were people coming to us with their computers to fix, or to buy one that we had in stock. So, when that happened, it was jarring for me, and it changed the entire focus of my project.
“I was in my own little bubble, and it popped my bubble; that’s for sure,” she continued. “It made me realize that there was this social problem in our community, and I thought I could do something about it.”
Those interested in investigating Second Chance Technology can contact Nixon at 304-905-1296 or can stop by TechNXN at 131 Kruger Street.
“I really didn’t know that I had created a social enterprise until I attended a conference in Beckley recently,” she admitted. “During that conference I identified my for-profit business and also the non-profit, Second Chance Technology, and several people encouraged me to combine them,” Nixon said. “It’s been a new learning process since then.
“It’s an organization that applies social strategies to maximize improvement to human and environmental well-being, and that includes maximizing social impact alongside profits for external shareholders,” she explained. “What that means is that I’ve created a for-profit business that helps a non-profit business create a social change.”
(Photos provided by Stacy Nixon)