History

A pioneer in digital equity since 1984

At Digitunity, we believe in a holistic approach to solving the digital divide, with an understanding that a person’s life circumstances should not be a barrier to achieving their fullest potential.

The digital divide, the gap between those who have an internet-connected computer and the requisite skills to use it and those who do not, is deeply entrenched in America. Even today, wide swaths of our population are left behind. It impacts every community, in every state, across the entire country.
- Scot Henley, Executive Director, Digitunity

It started with a simple dream: Used computer equipment, previously destined for disposal, would be made available for use by children and adults to develop skills that would enable them to lead independent, productive and meaningful lives.

Here's a look back at some key milestones since our founding...

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Yvette Marrin begins special needs teaching

Yvette Marrin, PhD, accepts offer to teach 12 children with multiple disabilities in Yonkers, NY.

Steve Kanor, founder of Enabling Devices

Microcomputers in special education

Dr. Marrin meets with pioneer Steve Kanor, a Biomedical engineer at St. Agnes Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital, to learn more about how electronic toys could help young multi-handicapped children learn.

George Mason University

Mentorship with Dr. Michael Behrmann at George Mason University on best teaching practices for young people with special needs and technology aids.

Council of Exceptional Children

Dr. Marrin joins the Council of Exceptional Children

Souhad Marji

"What is to become of me that I am handicapped?"

Souhad Marji, a student of Dr. Marrin’s with Cerebral Palsy, asks a pivotal question: “What is to become of me that I am handicapped?” This triggered a search by Dr. Marrin for computer innovations that were evolving and, over time, link all people of all skills and abilities to a world of new possibilities.

Yvette and Cristina

A single computer started it all

Dr. Marrin sends a note out to parents of the students for help in raising money to secure an Apple2e for the classroom. Student Cristina McMahan suggests her father might be able to purchase a computer for the classroom.

NCF Logo 1984

National Cristina Foundation formed

Dr. Marrin leaves Yonkers Public Schools to work on the creation of a charity alongside Cristina’s father D.B. McMahan which focuses on a solution for repurposing previously used computers to be used for training and education programs. Putting abilities to work using practical community based solutions formed the core mission of the National Cristina Foundation.

George Mason, John Hopkins and Vanderbilt

Johns Hopkins, George Mason and Peabody Vanderbilt Universities

A pilot project was established with Johns Hopkins, George Mason and Peabody Vanderbilt Universities on a number of assistive technology initiatives for people with disabilities.

Lou Harris

Louis Harris Poll

A 1986 Louis Harris poll showed that more than two-thirds of people with disabilities wanting meaningful work were unemployed.

virtual_inventory_timeline

Introduction of Virtual Inventory

The creation of the concept of “virtual inventory” was developed to provide an efficient transfer system for used technology. A cost and time effective alternative to the traditional central distribution warehouse, direct access to used equipment donations at its place of origin was then transferred directly to a local nonprofit organization.

Apple Logo Circa 1986

Apple donates 100 computers

Apple Corporation donates 100 computers to be the first computers used in special education in China. Dr. Marrin authored a cooperation plan with the China Disabled Persons Federation to build three technology labs for the disabled in Beijing.

Private and Public Sector partnership

The launch of a state plan with the Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Special Education to learn how to coordinate our work with the private corporate sector and significantly with federal and state agencies.

The Phoenix Project

Working with The Phoenix Project, a user group that refurbished computing technology, refurbishing activities were conducted inside donated building space from the State of Maryland.

Dole Foods & Costa Rica Ministry of Education

The Costa Rica Ministry of Education and Dole Foods worked with us in a project to introduce tech for special education programs throughout the nation of Costa Rica. Similar projects were launched in Argentina, Nicaragua and Guatemala.

Bill Gates Comdex 1987

Bill Gates meets with Dr. Marrin

Bill Gates attends the national APCUG meeting at the Comdex trade show. Dr. Marrin spoke with Bill and challenged him to consider low cost ways for a company like Microsoft to get operating system licenses to use in refurbished equipment.

APCUG Logo

Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG)

APCUG joins forces to help groups across the country refurbish computers for donation.

Newsstand

In the News

US News & World Report
July 25, 1988 – “We hold out technology to people as a little shimmering dream, and then we don’t deliver”

Business Week, October 10, 1988 – “If computers can go anywhere, why can’t they reach the poor?”

ad council branding campaign

Branding Campaign with the Ad Council

Dr. Marrin approaches the Ad Council and Laddin and Co. for assistance in a National campaign and slogan for our work; Two slogans emerged. “Your Old Computer Has the Power to Give New Life”; “Machines You Can Write Off. People You Can’t!”

comptia_logo_1993

Long-standing alliance with CompTIA begins

At Comdex, Dr. Marrin meets John Venator of the ABCD Computer Dealers (which later becomes CompTIA) and thus begins our long-standing association with the premier technology certification and trade association CompTIA – the Computing Technology Industry Association

Tribute to Abilities

Dr. Marrin requests that Ivan Seidenberg from Bell Atlantic and Bert Roberts from MCI host the Tribute to Abilities 10th anniversary dinner. MCI crafts a video spotlight on our work and raised $440,000 for the cause.  (MCI and Bell Atlantic merged in 2002 to become Verizon)

commerce-department logo

Creation of the first Learning Network

Federal Grant from the Dept of Commerce Telecommunications Division to create our first Learning Network. This detailed plan engaged organizations in 21 states for two years and validated the systems model used in the Cristina Reuse Model.

The Cristina Reuse Model

Management, Acquisition, Deployment, Training, Sharing, Collaboration and Evaluation. This innovative program applied structured thinking within a conceptual framework to maximize the effectiveness of how donated technology could most logically be reused.

Brian-Yvette

First computer donor/recipient matching platform created

Dr. Marrin hires Web Developer Brian Barrett to build a proprietary donation tracking and placement system. Additional programming was born out of a need to automate the grant submission process and thus the first computer donor/recipient matching platform was created.

Dell logo circa 2008

Dell joins the mission

As an online company, Dell visited our Greenwich headquarters and as a result, joined forces to use our donor/recipient matching platform to provide their customers with the opportunity to donate used equipment online.

Donated computers ready for processing

Additional Corporate donation programs launched

Honeywell, Unilever, Ingram Micro, Northern State Power and Xerox, among others, provide their customers with the opportunity to donate used equipment online. Computer donations were a steady stream moving through the matching platform.

hp_logo_2008-150x150

Donation/Trade-In program launched with HP

HP (Hewlett Packard) works with NCF to launch a donation program in coordination with their partner Market Velocity, and thus began our recycling, trade-in and donation solutions offered to Fortune 1000 IT and consumer electronics. This valuable relationship is still active for donations today.

hppcmag05

PC Magazine sponsors Computerlicious Design Experience

In honor of PC Magazine’s 25th anniversary, HP commissioned ten well-known designers to spruce up one of four different laptop models which were then auctioned for charity. PC Magazine helped raise over $20,000 for NCF through this project.

Non-Profit-Direct-Match-Donor-Submission-Form.fw_-150x150

Nonprofit Locator launched

Online platform providing easy access to donation matching platform for consumer and individual donations, allowing donors to choose a local recipient from our National network of vetted non-profits.

The accompanying Remote Donation Channel project allows members of the Cristina Network to embed the matching platform into their own organization’s website and thus promote their technology needs within their local communities.

SDRAM

Foundation receives $190K award from the SRAM settlement

A suit was issued against many manufacturers of SRAM (Static Random Access Memory) purchased between Nov 1996 and Dec 2006 (10 year span). By court order 60% was to be distributed via a court-approved cy pres plan to non-profits for the benefit of End Users. As a result of NCF’s application and proposal to use such funds to benefit our end users, our partners, the Foundation was awarded $190,000.

kattare-cvo

Free-Website program launched

In partnership with Kattare Internet Services, NCF launches a new program to build free websites for qualifying nonprofits enrolled in the Cristina Network.

veterans_resource_guide_capture-150x150

Veterans Computer Resource Guide released

The Veterans Computer Resource Guide was created as a joint project between the National Cristina Foundation, CompTIA’s Creating IT Futures and Touch the Future, Inc. Additional support was provided by Still Serving Veterans of Huntsville, AL. This resource guide was created to enable users to easily and methodically locate helpful online resources addressing the most common challenges faced by persons using technology.

CompTIA Award Grant

Grant awarded from CompTIA and their Foundation, Creating IT Futures. Approved through a supporting vote of the entire CompTIA member body, an award of $5,000 grant in recognition for our work

AFTRR

AFTRR Alliance Formed

On June 1 and 2, 2016, Digitunity established the Alliance for Technology Refurbishing and Reuse (AFTRR) alongside representatives from seven nonprofit refurbishers .  Their mission is to support a thriving nonprofit technology refurbishment industry focused on ending the digital divide.

computer metrics

New Metrics System launched

Digitunity develops new metrics collection system in coordination with AFTRR. New system is used to collect annual refurbishing metrics from all nonprofit partners as well as member capabilities. This is a major milestone in the development of the new metrics system and Digitunity’s support of AFTRR as a backbone organization.