Our History

At Digitunity, we believe in a holistic approach to solving the digital divide, with an understanding that a person’s life circumstances should not be a barrier to achieving their fullest potential. A pioneer in the concept of technology re-use since 1984, it started with a simple dream: Used computer equipment, previously destined for disposal, would be made available for use by children and adults to develop skills that would enable them to lead independent, productive and meaningful lives.

The "Digital Divide," the gap between those who have an internet-connected computer and the requisite skills to use it and those who do not, is deeply entrenched in America. Even today, in 2020, wide swaths of our population are left behind. It affects every community, in every state, in America.

The Imperative

According to the U.S. Census, 22% of American households lack a computer, a total of 28 million households. The Pew Research Center reports that nearly half of adults who earn less than $30,000 do not have broadband service at home. Moreover, roughly 1 in 4 Hispanic and black adults depend on smartphones alone for internet access, and associated data caps limit their ability to do much online. This lack of connectivity, or digital divide, places a huge percentage of the U.S. population in jeopardy, separating them from opportunities for education, employment, healthcare, banking, community, and family connection.

Our Purpose

Digitunity—an initiative of the National Cristina Foundation, is working to ensure everyone has the technology they need to thrive in our digitally connected society.

Our History

1981
Yvette Marrin begins special needs teaching
Yvette Marrin, intern, accepts offer to teach 12 handicapped children in Yonkers, NY.
1981
Microcomputers in Special Education
Steve KanorDr. Marrin meets with pioneer Steve Kanor, a Biomedical engineer at St. Agnes Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital, to learn more about how electronic toys could help young multi-handicapped children learn.
1982
George Mason University
Mentorship with Dr. Michael Behrmann at George Mason University on best teaching practices for young people with special needs and technology aids.

Council of Exceptional Children
Dr. Marrin joins the Council of Exceptional Children

1983
"What is to become of me?"
Souhad Marji, a student of Dr. Marrin’s with Cerebral Palsy, asks a pivotal question: “What is to become of me that I am handicapped?” Triggered search by Dr. Marrin for computing innovation that was evolving and, over time, link all people of all skills and abilities to a world of new possibilities.

Computers for Learning
Cristina McMahanDr. Marrin sends a note out to parents of the students for help in raising money to secure an Apple2e for the classroom. Student Cristina McMahan suggests her father might be able to purchase a computer for the classroom.

1984
National Cristina Foundation formed
Dr. Marrin leaves Yonkers Public Schools to work on the creation of a charity alongside Cristina’s father D.B. McMahan that focuses on a solution for repurposing previously used computers to be used for training and education programs. Putting abilities to work using practical community based solutions formed the core mission of the National Cristina Foundation.
1985
Johns Hopkins, George Mason and Peabody Vanderbilt Universities
A pilot project was established with Johns Hopkins, George Mason and Peabody Vanderbilt Universities on a number of intervention programs for people with disabilities.
1986
Louis Harris Poll
Picture Credit: NY TimesA 1986 Louis Harris poll showed that more than two-thirds of people with disabilities wanting to work were unemployed.
1986
Introduction of Virtual Inventory
The creation of the concept of “virtual inventory” was developed to provide an efficient transfer system for used technology. A cost and time effective alternative to the traditional central distribution warehouse, direct access to used equipment donations at its place of origin was then transferred directly to a local nonprofit organization.
1986
Apple donates 100 computers
to be the first computers used in special education in China. Dr. Marrin authored a cooperation plan with the China Disabled Persons Federation to build three technology labs for the disabled in Beijing.
1987
Private and Public Sector partnership
The launch of a state plan with the Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Special Education to learn how to coordinate our work with the private corporate sector and significantly with federal and state agencies.

Bill Gates meets with Yvette Marrin
Bill Gates attends the national APCUG meeting at the Comdex trade show. Dr. Marrin spoke with Bill and challenged him to consider low cost ways for a company like Microsoft to get operating system licenses to use in refurbished equipment.

1987
The Pheonix Project
Working with The Phoenix Project, a user group that refurbished computing technology, refurbishing activities were conducted inside donated building space from the State of Maryland.

Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG)
APCUG joins forces to help groups across the country refurbish computers for donation.

1987
Dole Foods & Costa Rica Ministry of Education
The Costa Rica Ministry of Education and Dole Foods worked with us in a project to introduce tech to special education throughout the nation of Costa Rica. Similar projects were launched in Argentina, Nicaragua and Guatemala.special education throughout the nation of Costa Rica. Similar projects were launched in Argentina, Nicaragua and Guatemala.
1988
US News & World Report
July 25, 1988 – "We hold out technology to people as a little shimmering dream, and then we don’t deliver"

Business Week, October 10, 1988 – "If computers can go anywhere, why can’t they reach the poor?"

Branding Campaign
Dr. Marrin approaches the Ad Council and Laddin and Co. for assistance in a National campaign and slogan for our work; Two slogans emerged. "Your Old Computer Has the Power to Give New Life"; "Machines You Can Write Off. People You Can’t!"

1993
Long-standing alliance with CompTIA begins
At Comdex, Dr. Marrin meets John Venator of the ABCF Computer Dealers (which becomes CompTIA) and thus begins our long-standing association with CompTIA – the Computer Technology Industry Association.
1996
MCI / Verizon fundraiser
Dr. Marrin requests that Ivan Seidenberg, CEO of MCI and Verizon, host the Tribute to Abilities 10th anniversary dinner. MCI/Verizon crafts a video spotlight on our work and raised $440,000 for the cause.
1998
Creation of the first Learning Network
Federal Grant from the Dept of Commerce Telecommunications Division to create our first Learning Network. This detailed plan engaged organizations in 21 states for two years and validated the systems model used in the Cristina Reuse Model.
1998-1999
The Cristina Reuse Model:
Management, Acquisition, Deployment, Training, Sharing, Collaboration and Evaluation. This innovative program applied structured thinking within a conceptual framework to maximize the effectiveness of how donated technology could most logically be reused.
2000
First computer donor/recipient matching platform created
Dr. Marrin hires Web Developer Brian Barrett to build a proprietary donation tracking and placement system. Additional programming was born out of a need to automate the grant submission process and thus the first computer donor/recipient matching platform was created.
2005
Dell joins the mission
As an online company, Dell visited our Greenwich headquarters and as a result, joined forces to use our donor/recipient matching platform to provide their customers with the opportunity to donate used equipment online.
2006
Additional Corporate donation programs launched
Honeywell, Unilever, Ingram Micro, Northern State Power and Xerox, among others, provide their customers with the opportunity to donate used equipment online. Computer donations were a steady stream moving through the matching platform.
2007
Donation/Trade-In program launched with HP
HP (Hewlett Packard) workes with NCF to launch a donation program in coordination with their partner Market Velocity, and thus began our recycling, trade-in and donation solutions offered to Fortune 1000 IT and consumer electronics. This valuable relationship is still active for donations today.
2008
PC Magazine sponsors Computerlicious Design Experience
In honor of PC Magazine’s 25th anniversary, HP commissioned ten well-known designers to spruce up one of four different laptop models which were then auctioned for charity. PC Magazine helped raise over $20,000 for NCF through this project.
2011
Nonprofit Locator launch
Online platform providing easy access to donation matching platform for consumer and individual donations, allowing donors to choose a local recipient from our National network of vetted non-profits.

The accompanying Remote Donation Channel project allows members of the Cristina Network to embed the matching platform into their own organization’s website and thus promote their technology needs within their local communities.

2012
Foundation receives $190K award from the SRAM settlement
A suit was issued against many manufacturers of SRAM (Static Random Access Memory) purchased between Nov 1996 and Dec 2006 (10 year span). By court order 60% was to be distributed via a court-approved cy pres plan to non-profits for the benefit of End Users. As a result of NCF’s application and proposal to use such funds to benefit our end users, our partners, the Foundation was awarded $190,000.
2014
Free-Website Program Launched
In partnership with Kattare Internet Services, NCF launches a new program to build free websites for qualifying nonprofits enrolled in the Cristina Network.
2015
Veterans Computer Resource Guide released
The Veterans Computer Resource Guide was created as a joint project between the National Cristina Foundation, CompTIA’s Creating IT Futures and Touch the Future, Inc. Additional support was provided by Still Serving Veterans of Huntsville, AL. This resource guide was created to enable users to easily and methodically locate helpful online resources addressing the most common challenges faced by persons using technology.
2015-2016
CompTIA Award Grant
Grant awarded from CompTIA and their Foundation, Creating IT Futures. Approved through a supporting vote of the entire CompTIA member body, an award of $5,000 grant in recognition for our work.
2016
AFTRR Alliance Formed
On June 1 and 2, 2016, representatives from seven nonprofit refurbishers along with representatives from the National Cristina Foundation established the Alliance for Technology Refurbishing and Reuse (AFTRR).
2018
New Metrics System Launched
NCF develops new metrics collection system in coordination with AFTRR. New system is used to collect annual refurbishing metrics from all nonprofit partners as well as member capabilities. This is a major milestone in the development of the new metrics system and NCF’s support of AFTRR as a backbone organization.
2020
Website Refresh
January 7th, launch of revised Cristina.org showcasing the work of the foundation and new leadership.