A Heart to Serve

by Weam Namou

Silicon Valley

“God designed us for something greater than just the people in our home and in our employment,” said Pastor Aaron during Sunday’s sermon. “When God looks at us he sees a beautiful thing that He wants to shine in its beauty.”

Listening to these words, I could not help but think of Ron, the man whom I bought a computer from the night before. He told me his story. About ten years ago, Ron was the general manager of a wholesale business. He was living a “normal” life when one day he read in the Detroit News an article that explained Southeast Michigan alone sends over two billion pounds of electronic waste into our landfills, every year.

“Those last two words – every year – really grabbed my heart,” he said, demonstrating by grabbing his shirt. “I thought, oh my God, something has to be done.”

The idea that two billion pounds of electronic waste was sent into our landfills every year kept bugging him to the point where he gave into “The Calling.” In less than two years, he quit his job and began Silicon Alley Recyclers, a non-profit charity computer and electronics thrift store in Warren, Michigan, where you can find super bargain priced electronics like computers, printers, and TVs. Most of the equipment at Silicon Alley is commercial grade, with very few consumer products.

“What most people do not know is that there are two grades of electronics – commercial and consumer, which is like Mercedes and a Chevy,” said Ron.

Ron credits Focus Hope for being his mentor, helping him turn Silicon Alley into a non-profit. He also has a hard-working and loyal volunteer staff that helps him dissemble the equipment for recycling, and then package it. These products are then reintroduced into needed and useful hands through various charity and marketing methods. Hundreds of computer systems have been donated to schools and churches.

Ron has loved the process. But his biggest challenge is funding.

“I’ve loaned everything I have in the world to keep it alive,” he said. “It owes me a salary for 8 years but I’ll never see it,” he added laughing. Then he asked, “Do you have a good heart?”

I was confused.

“You know, like Sanford and Son – when Fred was always having those heart attacks?”

“That was my dad’s favorite show,” I reminisced, and told him that yes, I had a good heart. He led me to a door that opened to a huge room with gigantic aisles of equipment.

“You have your work cut out for you,” I said.

But it was easy to see that this man, who has four children and four grandchildren, was shining in his work. While I was in the store, two of his “board members” walked in, one a minister and the other, Professor Wesley Arnold, a historian who made DVDs and wrote books about Macomb and distributed both for free. The warmth, laughter, and character in that place was as rare as finding a genius heart-felt show like Sanford and Son and no doubt, their service to this earth will be as timeless.

For more information, visit http://www.siliconalleyrecyclers.us