When Yvette Brooks first arrived in Transylvania County in 2017, technology was the farthest thing from her mind. She took a job working with survivors of domestic violence, helping them find the goods and services they needed to stay safe and create new lives. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, her clients could no longer get in touch, and Yvette realized that a lack of internet connectivity could create a life-or-death situation. “It was a ‘lightbulb moment’,” she says – so she turned her focus to technology.
In 2020, Yvette created Through the Trees, a growing non-profit organization working to increase affordable digital access and use. Many of WNC’s rural communities are grossly underserved (or unserved) with high-speed internet access. Many individuals or families that do have internet access lack the devices and resources necessary to connect. Through the Trees addresses that need through Upcycle Tech, its new storefront in Brevard. Upcycle Tech accepts donations of used computers and other technological devices, refurbishes them and makes them available to shoppers who need devices at low or no cost.
The experience can be life changing, Brooks says. “One customer who came into Upcycle Tech had just completed a full training course in the Adobe graphic design software but had no computer to put those skills to use. She shopped for the right device at Upcycle Tech, and now she’s created her own graphic design business.”