Providing Employment and Keeping Electronic Waste Out of Landfills
Our mission is to provide technology and training to children and adults who have barriers to employment and education, while protecting our environment and community from hazardous waste.
Our vision is to be passionate people in service to the world through partnerships, education, training and environmental awareness. We support the education, job training, and placement programs we offer for youth graduating foster care, adults with disabilities, seniors, families leaving domestically violent relationships, migrant worker family members, and underfunded schools and nonprofits.
Since 1999, NextStep Recycling has been working to improve the environment and help those in need. We take donations of computers and other electronic devices, refurbish them, and put them back into the community. We also recycle over 20 million pounds of electronic waste each year. Our 10,000 volunteers have donated over 280,000 hours of service, and 5000 people have enhanced their employment marketability through our training programs.
After 25 years of working class jobs, Lorraine was injured in a car accident and was forced to retrain. Her family urged her to try college. Lorraine resisted when she learned students had to use computers. The computer was a symbol of “what smart people” use—and this was a barrier to her understanding that she could be successful in school. During this time, Lorraine was diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome, which she reports was “one of the greatest moments in my life, it explained the world to me.” Suddenly, life made more sense. Before the diagnosis, “I spent years thinking I was stupid, inferior, and a danger to others.
When I was diagnosed autistic, I discovered my intelligence and capabilities. For that, I am forever grateful”. After additional prodding by her family, she enrolled in an adult education computer class to see if she could learn how to use a computer.
Lorraine was fortunate to have had a patient and supportive teacher and discovered that, like others who fall on the Autistic Spectrum, the computer was very friendly and a great communication tool. To her shock and amazement, Lorraine ended up graduating Magna Cum Laude from the University of Oregon, with a Bachelor's of Education degree in Family and Community Services.
Degree in hand, she went to work as a Social Service Specialist in the Oregon Department of Child Welfare in 2000, out of a desire to help children who were in situations similar to those in her own life. Because of her own struggles, Lorraine has always been determined to do whatever she could to make life easier for other children than it was for her growing up. Technology ended up being the tool she needed.
After her first computer died, Lorraine discovered she had a knack at fixing computers, and so she set about finding old ones, refurbishing them, and then gifting them to children and families who couldn’t afford to buy them—many of these recipients were the people with whom she was working at Child Welfare. She quickly discovered that demand, and need, was very high.
She found some other folks in her community who were interested in refurbishing computers and had the desire to address the digital divide, but not the means to find community members who needed access to technology. She brought the hobbyists, the geeks, and those who needed computers together.
In 2004 she took a giant leap: she quit her job and moved her little enterprise out of the garage into a real warehouse. Lorraine continued to work on building services and programs to address the needs of the community and today NextStep is a thriving community service organization with 33 employees, 10 volunteer ReUse Ambassadors, an ongoing group of Lane County Master Recyclers, and hundreds of volunteers.
NextStep now occupies over 35,000 square feet in two separate locations—much of which is used to offer free job training for community members. To date, NextStep has trained over 10,000 individuals, many who are on the autism spectrum. Lane County, OR has one of the highest autism rates in the nation – one in every 90 children are diagnosed as having autism in the community.
Lorraine has modeled her belief that everyone can participate in education and has gone on to earn her Masters in Social Work.
Lorraine continues to provide support and guidance to the organization she founded as a volunteer. Lorraine is a member of the DEQ Oregon E-Cycles workgroup and a City of Eugene Human Rights Commissioner. She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers and the Social Welfare Action Alliance. She is a member of the Kindtree Autism Productions - Autism Rocks Board of Directors as well as a member of the Better Eugene-Springfield Transit Board of Advisors. She is a past co-founder and Board Member of the GreenLane Sustainable Business Network, a member of the Lane Community College Computer Information Technology Advisory Committee, and is a proud Lane County Master Recycler. Lorraine is a passionate advocate for people on the autism spectrum, for trauma survivors, and for people who experience disabilities. Lorraine believes that all people are brilliant, no matter what label they carry, and should be treated with respect and dignity.
Watch Lorraine's story on YouTube
Meet Our Team
Mary Ann Reilly
Better Business Builder Award – NextStep Recycling – from the Springfield Chamber of Commerce
Pillar of the Community – NextStep Recycling from Springfield Chamber of Commerce
Community Leaders Together – Volunteer of the Year-Rick Tromel
Association of Oregon Recyclers – Recycler of the Year
The Philanthropist Award from Springfield Chamber of Commerce to Roy Nelson
Association of Oregon Recyclers ‘Recycler of the Year’
2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Oregon Black Education Foundation ‘Supporting Student Success’
Springfield Chambers of Commerce ‘Pillar of Community’
2013 and 2015
The Arc of Lane County ‘Community Partner Award
Ethics in Business
For excellence in ethical business practices. Presented by Oregon Ethics in Business.
2012 L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth Honoree
NextStep Recycling is pleased to announce that its founder, Lorraine Kerwood LMSW, has been honored as a 21012 Woman of Worth by L’Orèal Paris for her work with NextStep, an organization that provides technology literacy and job and social skills training to persons with disabilities and other marginalized populations.
Lane County Commissioners Nonprofit Trash Buster of the Year
NextStep was awarded the Lane County Commissioners Nonprofit Trash Buster of the Year Award for Environmental Efforts.
Lane County Commissioners Individual TrashBusters Award for Environmental Efforts
Presented to Rick Tromel, NextStep Recycling Volunteer and Master Recycler
Eugene Weekly Best of Eugene Award
The Community voted, and NextStep was chosen as the Most Environmentally Friendly Business at the Best of Eugene Awards held at the McDonald Theatre on Oct 24, 2009. Mayor Kitty Piercy and Jaculynn Peterson from MyEugene.com gave the award to Lorraine Kerwood, Executive Director.
Register Guard Readers Choice Award for Most Environmentally Friendly Business
28,000 community members voted and selected NextStep Recycling for the 2009 Readers’ Choice Awards Most Environmentally Friendly Business!
From massive river clean-ups to programs that help the homeless, from neighborhood activists to national and international social and environmental organizations, eTown takes pride in celebrating the success stories of ordinary citizens accomplishing extraordinary things.
eTown is a community builder. By featuring diverse music and interviews, eTown creates a constantly expanding “community on the air.” Through the inspiring E-Chievement Awards, listeners all over the country are reminded that individual efforts really do make a difference.
Employee of the Year, Lane Community College Cooperative Education Programs
NextStep Recycling was recognized as the 2008 Employee of the Year by the Lane Community College Cooperative Education programs.
Volvo for Life American HomeTown Hero Award for the Environment
The Volvo for Life Award is given to Kerwood for exemplary work, done through the creation of Eugene Oregon-based NextStep Recycling non-profit, in support of both the environment and a broad spectrum of underserved communities.
Lane Community College Distinguished Alumni Award
Awarded to Lorraine Kerwood, founder, and director of NextStep Recycling, a nonprofit that not only recycles computers and electronic equipment, but also distributes rebuilt computers locally and abroad. Started at Lane in 1987 taking adult education classes, then college credit classes, and participated in the Transitions to Success program for women.