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Going Green To Get Their Bronze

Orange Hunt students earn Girl Scout award for collecting electronics for recycling.

The big pile of purple plastic bins, computer pieces and wires that filled the Wokeck family home and garage is gone. After two months, Jennifer Wokeck and Anna Goodwin, sixth graders at Orange Hunt Elementary and Junior Girl Scouts from Troop 32, had collected a veritable electronics store worth of high-tech gadgetry to turn over to be recycled, kept out of a landfill for their Bronze Award project.

"We're giving the computers to a place that helps disabled people get jobs," said Anna Goodwin, a girl with dark hair and bright green eyes. "They take the computer apart and recycle the rest of the parts."

Jennifer Wokeck said they had first read about ServiceSource, an Alexandria-based company, through a magazine article.

"When we realized Anna's mom worked there, we decided to help them out," she said.

ServiceSource offers a program called Keep It Green, which recycles old computers by collecting them, refurbishing the ones that can be reused and taking apart those that cannot be fixed.

The company also schedules nearly half a dozen collection events during the year, said Mark Hall, senior vice president and chief development officer at ServiceSource.

A BRIGHTLY COLORED sign was planted in front of the Wokeck house, where the donations were collected over the past two months. The girls also took flyers around the neighborhood with information about their drive and the recycling opportunity.

In total, the girls collected 30 monitors, 20 printers, 24 CPUs, 168 miscellaneous items like mice and speakers, two laptops, three scanners and two fax machines.

"I thought we'd get less," Jennifer said of their success. "I didn't think people would have this much stuff."

Anna said she was surprised so many of their neighbors pitched in to help. "I thought we'd get maybe five computers and parts but we got lots."

The sixth grade girls in Troop 32, whose leader, Lisa Wokeck, is Jennifer's mother, are all working on various Bronze Award projects. Two other girls collected books for needy children, Jennifer said.

The girls made the signs and flyers themselves, with a little help from their parents. Anna said she couldn't do too much when it came to lifting or moving the donations because she broke both her wrists after falling off a piece of playground equipment a few weeks ago.

That did not stop them from making the first donation to ServiceSource from the Girls Scouts, said Reginald King, warehouse and facility manager.

"For an event like this, it's excellent," he said. "They collected so much."

Among the piles of donations, some gadgets look almost new, like a fax machine complete with phone that Anna's brother Will wanted to keep.

The girls' parents were beaming with pride after loading up a truck and minivan to deliver the computers and parts to ServiceSource.

"They did an awesome job," Lisa Wokeck said. "When you think about all they were able to collect, it's got to be thousands of dollars worth of electronics."

BEFORE THE COLLECTION was over, the girls were able to tour the ServiceSource warehouse. It turns out Anna's mother, Lisa Goodwin, works for the Laurie Mitchell Employment Center, that works with ServiceSource to train people with disabilities on computers and help them find jobs.

"I'm so new to my job I didn't even know about the Keep It Green Program," Lisa Goodwin said. "I'm so proud of the girls for choosing this project."

Not only will the computers be used again when possible, the donations will not end up in the landfill, another benefit to the girls' endeavor.

A $10 contribution was collected from those people who turned in a monitor, to pay for the removal of a lead cathode ray, King said. Each monitor contains about seven or eight pounds of lead, and recycling monitors keeps that toxic element out of the groundwater.

Once the computers are examined, the ones that cannot be refurbished are stripped down to copper wires, microchips and drives and sent off to be recycled. The computers that can be reused will eventually be sent to Baltimore, where some will be used in schools or other public offices, King said.

"The old, outdated parts go to a scrap plant, get melted down and are made into new stuff," he said.

Hall was equally impressed with the sizeable donation.

"We have an outstanding partnership with out community and I think this is evident of that," Hall said. "Not only is this good for the environment, it helps people with disabilities get jobs."