Donating Laptops is
One of the Best Ways
to Help Deploying Troops

Since we posted our article on donating laptops for deploying troops, we've been contacted by a number of service members asking how they can get laptop computers donated to enable them to stay in touch with loved ones.

Our article talks about a great program by JDS Computer Donations, a veteran-owned company in Michigan that accepts donations of used laptops, rebuilds them, and then sends them to deployed military units. They work in conjunction with Any Soldier, Inc., through America Supports You, the DoD organization that connects groups supporting our service men and women. If you're interested in donating laptops, click the link to read the article about JDS Computers' program.

The company is donating laptops to units only, though, and not to individuals. In order to be eligible to request laptops for your unit, you must first sign up with Any Soldier (on their web site) to be a volunteer contact. Once that relationship is established, you may then ask for laptops for your unit. Any Soldier requires that you be in country before your request is made, and that you have at least 4 months remaining in country. The laptops must be left in country for other troops coming in to replace your unit.

Soldiers in your unit can share a laptop or two, and everyone will be able to stay in touch with their loved ones more easily and less expensively than via phone. If you have an internet connection, all you need to do is sign up for Skype service (, have your family establish a separate Skype account, and you can 'call' each other via your computers. The sound quality is amazing. My husband and I recently used Skype to communicate while he was in the Middle East on business, and it sounded as though he were in the same room with me.

One thing that will be important to remember if you're using a shared laptop/notebook to stay in touch via e-mail is to use a webmail service, such as Google's gmail, so that your messages are stored online and not downloaded onto the computer you're using! We recommend that you go ahead and sign up for the service and get the account set up before you go.

Also, when you log in, be sure to uncheck the box that says "Remember me on this computer," and remember to log out of your account each time you leave the computer. If you don't, the next person who sits down to use that computer and opens gmail will open directly into your inbox. (Guess how we know that? Someone else logged into gmail on our laptop, and the next time we opened gmail, we were looking at their inbox.)

We are not aware of any groups that are donating laptops directly to individual service members (except for some returning wounded warriors who need special computers in order to communicate because of their injuries). If you are aware of a group that has refurbished laptops or affordable laptops, please let us know so we can add that information.

If your unit is getting ready to deploy, and you'd like to see if you can get people interested in donating laptops to take along for the troops to share, here are some ideas you might try. Thankfully, the prices of laptops have come down, and you can now buy a good one that is more than sufficient for e-mail needs and will let you watch a movie on DVD, for around $400-500, or a netbook for around $300.

Fundraising Ideas to Encourage Donating Laptops

  • Go to your local newspaper and ask for their help. Ask them to run an article about your unit being deployed, and the need for donating laptops to enable the families to stay in touch inexpensively. Anyone interested in donating laptops or money to be used to buy them could contact the newspaper to do so. That would give people more confidence that this is not a scam, where someone is just trying to get cash or a free laptop. The newspaper might even be willing to buy you a laptop or give you one of their old ones if you offer to write a weekly column for them to keep the folks back home informed about what the local unit is doing (observing OPSEC, of course).
  • Talk to your ministers and ask if they would be willing to make an appeal either from the pulpit or in the church bulletin (or preferably both) to help buy a laptop or two for the unit to keep in touch with loved ones at home. If 50 people donated $10 each, that would buy a decent laptop. Or better yet, if you can raise $600, buy two netbooks for around $300 each. Netbooks are more than sufficient to communicate with your families. And be sure to give the story to the local paper to encourage even more people donating laptops.
  • Hold car washes or other simple fund-raising events. Ask the local high school JROTC group (if there is one) to help. Or maybe the school's cheerleaders or athletic teams.
  • How many people are being deployed? Divide $600 by that number, and ask if each of them would be willing to chip in their share so you can buy a laptop (or two netbooks) for the unit to take along specifically to keep in touch with their families. If it's a big unit, and you think you could raise enough to buy a better laptop, divide $1000 by that number and see if you can raise that much, or better yet, raise $1200 and buy two $600 laptops or four $300 netbooks.
  • Send e-mail to all your friends and family. Tell them that you're proud to be serving your country, but at the same time, you're concerned about your family at home. Ask if they could spare $10 or $20 to pool together so you could get a laptop to take with you so you can stay in touch. You might be surprised how much money you get.

Those are just a few ideas to encourage donating laptops, but they might work. Good luck!

From our own personal experience, we recommend Lenovo laptops (Lenovo now manufactures the ThinkPad, which was formerly made by IBM.) Our household has used a number of laptops, and the ThinkPad laptops seem to be a bit sturdier, holding up better under traveling conditions. In fact, we build this site on a Lenovo laptop! When we're not traveling, we use an external keyboard, mouse and monitor for ease of use.

If you try some of these fundraising ideas, please let us know how much money you are able to raise, and how many laptops you were able to buy for your unit! If you have other fundraising ideas, please share them. We'd be delighted to tell your success story.

Even if you're not successful in raising enough money to buy laptops, you probably shouldn't worry too much. There will probably be somebody with a personal laptop who would let you use it to exchange e-mail with home. And depending on where you're stationed, the post may have facilities, such as a library, that would include a public computer for e-mail use. It's not as convenient as having your own, but it's better than nothing.

While you're fretting about not being able to afford your own personal laptop, realize how fortunate you are that internet access is now available in combat zones and on ships at sea!

Remember those of us who went through deployments in the days before internet access. We actually had to physically write letters, take them to the mailbox or post office, and wait. And wait, and wait. And then we'd get a dozen letters all at once. Then it would be a couple of weeks before we got anything else, because ships could only send out mail when they pulled into port. Likewise, our loved ones could only receive their mail when the ship pulled into port, so they went through the same wait and wait cycle. It could take a month or more to send a question and get an answer!

But those letters were some of our most prized possessions. Sometimes, e-mail isn't all it's cracked up to be. Even if you communicate about daily activities via e-mail, take the time to hand-write a few love letters to your spouse and an occasional letter to each of your children individually to express your love for them. You'll find that they will treasure those letters for many years, and they'll read them over and over to be reminded just how much you love them and miss them.

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