People

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Archive

She Fixes and Donates Old Computers

Posted on

Lorraine Kerwood, 46

Founder, NextStep Recycling, Eugene, Ore.

LOW EXPECTATIONS: Growing up poor in Philadelphia, Kerwood spoke with a stutter and got Ds in school. Teachers told her she was developmentally disabled but helped little. “I was convinced I was stupid,” she says.

A FRESH START: Moving to Oregon in her 20s, she saw a therapist who diagnosed her with high-functioning autism. In 1996, she enrolled at the University of Oregon, bought a used desktop computer—and discovered she had a knack for fixing it. Soon, she was spending hours repairing junked machines; she gave one to a 7-year-old girl she was counseling as part of her social work degree. Graduating in 1999—magna cum laude—Kerwood had found her calling.

NEXT STEPS: Working out of a garage with a few volunteers, Kerwood built her computer-repair charity into NextStep Recycling (www.nextsteprecycling.org). Since 2004, it has saved 750 tons of solid waste and donated 13,000 computers to schools, community centers and people who participate in a volunteer program. Taylor Hutchinson, 18, of Springfield, Ore., got his first desktop last summer. He uses it to research school assignments and, of course, play music. “This,” he says, “is a big deal to me.”

Know a hero? Send suggestions to HEROESAMONGUS@PEOPLEMAG.COM