CALGARY -- Old laptops, tablets and cell phones are being loaned out to people in need during the pandemic with the help of a Calgary partnership.

The United Way Calgary joined with Canadian company Ruckify, which offers an online platform for people to rent out their belongings. The company asked Calgarians to loan their old technology to help several organizations fill the increased demand due to distancing measures in place during the COVID-19 outbreak.

"These donated laptops really are offering a lifeline for our community members," said Arian Wolde-Giorgis, community hub coordinator at The Alex, which is one of the recipient groups for the project.

The donations have helped patients access online health services, families stay connected and learners obtain education.

Calgarians can donate their devices temporarily for a set amount of time, or outright give them away, to the people in need.

"People have lots of old technology sitting around," said David Burtyn, the Calgary growth manager for Ruckify. "You know, you get a new cell phone (and) you put the old one in the box, or laptop, or cell phone, whatever. So, I mean why not put it to good use instead of having it sit around? Put it into the hands of people who need it."

The Alex staff bring donated laptops to community

Old technology in working order can be donated to Ruckify and it also takes care of the pick-up.

"Just leave it in a bag outside your door," said Burtyn.

The Electronic Recycling Association (ERA) then removes the data from the devices to protect the privacy of the donors.

"The data wiping service, that’s performed automatically, and then we also have the option for a shredding service," said Chantelle Coddington with ERA. "(That's) just to ensure that data isn’t being passed along and then we can reinstall either a wiped or a new hard drive."

The ERA also updates the devices and adds programs to match the needs of the community members receiving them.

The collaboration has helped three Calgary organizations fulfill its need: Carya, the Bowness Community Association and the Alex Community Health Centre.

More donations would benefit the nine other organizations still in need of hundreds of devices.

"I think there’s a tendency to think the pandemic is over and the crisis is over," said Quentin Sinclair, director of commuity impact with the Calgary United Way. "The reality is it’s just not the case for many people who remain in real need for connection to services, who have been without work for sometime. Those that are most vulnerable are often the hardest hit in a crisis."

The Alex described one of its grateful recipients, a man with severe, chronic illness who has had to self-isolate during the pandemic.

"We have been able to gift him a tablet so that he can stay connected and decrease his sense of isolation."

For information on how to donate, you can go to Ruckify's website.