Closing the Digital Divide: The STUG Refurb Project Seeks Donations of Digital Devices

Since 2004, more than 20,000 computers have been donated to disadvantaged students and low-income individuals in the regional community. The initiative is a partnership between The Children’s Guardian Fund and Sarasota Technology Users.


(July 24, 2023) How do disadvantaged youth and low-income families compete without a computer or laptop in today’s world? According to Mark Sharff, a Guardian ad Litem volunteer in Manatee County and a member of the Sarasota Technology Users (STUG), it means that most are left behind, unable to easily access educational and career training opportunities. Sharff explains that’s why, in 2004, The Children’s Guardian Fund teamed up with the Sarasota Technology Users to collect and refurbish used computers and laptops. Since the launch of the STUG Refurb Project, 20,689 renovated digital devices have been donated to residents of Sarasota, Manatee, and DeSoto counties. The recipients include disadvantaged school children, low-income adults and seniors, individuals in recovery programs, veterans and others trying to emerge from homelessness. In 2013, the program was expanded to provide computers directly to students in the Sarasota County school system. The group partners with more than 25 regional nonprofits to assist in distribution, including The Children’s Guardian Fund, Goodwill, Women’s Resource Center, Career Source, SPARCC, Take Stock in Children, Janie Poe, Literacy Center, and dozens of other area charities.

According to Mike Hutchinson, manager of the STUG Rehab Shop, the computers are rebuilt, rigorously cleaned of all data that protects the donor’s information, and then loaded with updated software.

A recent $11,150 gift from the Community Foundation of Sarasota helps to “offset the cost for a variety of parts and other aspects of maintaining this vital community service which quietly impacts so many lives,” says Hutchinson.

Hutchinson also mentions the environmental benefits. “The Refurb effort is also a recycling program that avoids adding tons of computers to area landfills,” he says. “Our estimate, based on an average weight of eight pounds per computer and 20,000 computers refurbished, has saved more than 70 tons of computers from ending up in community landfills.”

The STUG Refurb Project is currently seeking donations of digital devices, including computers, laptops, cell phones, tablets, and peripherals on the Windows or Apple platforms. “We can wipe your computer, remove all your personal files or you can do it yourself,” Sharff says. “I’ll even come to your front door and pick it up myself!”

To donate a used digital device, call 941-374-1107 or email for pickup from your front door. Visit for more information and to donate.


Photo captions:

Mike Hutchinson (left in white shirt), manager of the STUG Rehab Shop, and Bill Crowe (right in red shirt), a member of the Sarasota Technology Users, show some of the refurbished laptops that are part of the STUG Refurb Project. Since the launch of the initiative, more than 20,000 renovated digital devices have been donated to residents of Sarasota, Manatee, and DeSoto counties. Courtesy photo.

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