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Check Dead Trees for the most current print out at the Phone Desk Station

The Phone Centre

The Phone Centre is Free Geek's day-to-day communications hub. This page has info & resources for Phone Desk volunteers. Areas include phones, helping schedule volunteers and record their hours, redirecting lost sheep, and just generally keeping communications flowing smoothly.

Transferring calls

  1. Hit "#"
  2. The robot will say, "Transfer?",
  3. Dial the appropriate extension number. It will start ringing.
  4. If person answers, you can tell them they have a call. Then you can hang up & the transfer is complete.
  5. If no one answers, the call will switch back to you. You won't hear much, it will stop ringing and then you might hear the breathing of the person who's waiting to be transferred.

Calling internal extensions

To call an internal extension, simply dial the extension number.

Cold-calling the extension you want

Cold-calling is when you have someone on the line and want to talk to an extension without actually transferring the call. To do this, press "FLASH" and dial the extension. You'll be able to talk to the extension whilst keeping the caller on hold.



  • 33 Receiving - if you want to get a hold of Dave, or to is a big drop off of stuff coming.
  • 24 Store - if people want to buy stuff or have a problem with something they bought

Internal Extensions

  • 21 Mezzanine
  • 22 Laptop Build
  • 24 Store
  • 25 Store coordinator
  • 26 The cave

Tips for answering the phone

  • Say "Free Geek" when you answer the phone.
  • If people are coming down to FG, remind them that parking and computer drop-off are in the back, off the lane.

Accepting Call Waiting

Hit the "flash" button or press the switch-hook briefly to put a call on hold and take a "Calling Waiting" call.

Address & Directions

Remember to tell everyone that parking and computer drop-offs are around back, by our loading bay!

Our address is 1820 Pandora Street.

Most people don't know where that is, so give them a tip to orient them.

Examples of helpful tips:

  • We're 3 blocks NE of Commercial and Hastings
  • We're a couple blocks North of Hastings, between Commercial & Victoria
  • Pandora is between Hastings and Powell, and we're a block and a half east of Commercial
  • Powell is a nice fast way to get to us from downtown. Then they take a right on Commercial and a left on Pandora.
  • There is a map & directions on our website on the top-lefthand side.


TUES-SAT 11am-6pm CLOSED SUN/MON Closed stat holidays - Closed TUES after a MON stat holiday

  • Program volunteers come after 1pm
  • Windowsless Wednesday/Linux Clinic is first WED of the month from 7pm-9:30pm.
  • Encourage people to check the website for upcoming events.
  • Adoptions are on Thursday.

Taking Messages

Check the messages at the beginning of the day. Many will be hang-ups, since people may just be calling to hear our lovely recording.

Forward messages to the appropriate mailbox. Save messages on our voicemail that are long, detailed, garbled or hard to understand so we can hear them again if necessary.

Everyone is busy & forgets to ask the Phone Centre for messages. Please remember to pass on messages to people as soon as possible.

Prospective Volunteers

If the person wants to volunteer, let them know they need to come in for an orientation first.


Before you can start volunteering, you must complete an orientation.

Orientations happen at 4pm on Wednesdays and at 2 & 4 pm Saturdays. Orientations take about 45 minutes, include a safety talk, and a tour of our facility.

If they don't want a computer but still want to help

That's great but they still need to do an orientation and we will still track their hours for statistics. They'll still get a discount at the Thrift store.

Please note: Volunteers cannot volunteer for computer parts, only the standardized Geekbox.

Free Computer Programs

No computer experience is required for any of our programs. Program graduates get a computer and a class on how to use it. The computer they will receive is suitable for the typical home user (word processing, email, Internet, listening to music/watching movies). It runs the Ubuntu distribution of the GNU/Linux operating system.

24 hour Adoption program

Volunteers receive a computer after volunteering for 24 hours of time at Free Geek. No computer experience is required! Common Adoption activities: helping test computers, dismantle (take apart) computers, or sort computer parts. Members of the adoption program receive a standard computer, called a GeekBox with a Pentium 3 or better processor.

Build program

Volunteers in the Build program learn to build 6 computers, and they get to keep the last one they build. It takes longer than the Adoption Program, but they learn more.

More info on Volunteer Intake Howto

Free Geek Database (FGDB)


NOTE: For a bigger group, you could bring them to the lab and help them enter their own data. (That's once the lab is up & running again.)

Open the Database

  • Open a browser (e.g. Firefox) to the FreeGeek Database
  • Click Contacts along the left side bar
  • Click the Search box and then the Create a new contact box after it appears.

Haven't we met somewhere before?

Search for the person's name:
(NOTE: sometimes people may already be in the database. Don't skip this step.)
  • Fill in first name and/or last name, Press search.
If a name (or names) appear below the little green box, ask if it's theirs.
  • If so, select their name and press Edit. Make sure all their info is current.
  • If not, or if no names appear, press Create contact.

Essential Fields

  • Checkboxes
Adopters: Adopt and Volunteer
Helpers: Volunteer

HEY! If you don't click at least the Volunteer checkbox, the database won't let us record that volunteer's hours, and we won't be able to see them in 'hours' in the database. Oh, the horror!!!

Also, remember that not everyone has a phone number or an email address (or even a postal code/permanent address). Ask if they have one, instead of assuming.

  • First name, last name
  • Postal code (used to estimate demographic info for grants)
  • Phone number
  • Emergency contact in the notes field if they have it.
  • Press Save record. Hooray!
  • Ask for additional questions.
  • Proceed to individual sections for Adoption, Build, or Helper additional info.

See Volunteer Intake Howto for more info.

Recording Volunteer Hours into FGDB

We've been sloppy in the past about recording volunteer hours. It's important for our statistics & grant applications to record everyone's hours, even if they're not volunteering for a computer!

  • Click the HOURS option on the left side bar menu.
  • Enter the volunteer name or any part of the name into the Search box and select the right person from the drop-down list.
(IF no results come up, even after trying different spellings, go into the CONTACTS section and try searching there to see if someone forgot to click the volunteer box at the top of their contact information)
  • Once you select the right volunteer, click on the Get Details button under their name and contact information.
  • Wait a sec, and after the page has fully loaded, the Duration box will come up already highlighted in the Volunteer Task box and then you can just type in the volunteer's hours as soon as the page is open.
  • Press TAB to move over to the Program Type box and select the Recycling (adoption) option
SHORTCUT: If you press the letter R and then the down arrow, you won't need to scroll through the whole list
  • Press TAB twice to skip over the Community service option, and go straight to the What Day? box to enter the date.
SHORTCUT: Press the right arrow key to move the cursor to the end so you can just enter the right day they volunteered.
  • SAVE HOURS at the end and select Start Over to enter the next volunteer

Please remember to check off the names as you enter so there's no confusion if someone else needs to pick up where you left off!

HowTo Enter Volunteer database Intake Form

  • Go to Free Geek Database (fgdb in firefox's url bar)
  • Click Contacts on the left frame
  • Enter anything and hit "search"
  • Click "Create a new contact" button
  • Check off volunteer and other categories (adopter) if applicable
  • Click "more contact methods" to enter e-mail and additional information
  • Click contacts and find the contact you entered, once found copy id (volunteer number) on the top right of physical volunteer sheet

Volunteer Database Intake Form

This form lives in phone/Dead Trees/Volunteers


We can always use extra helpers who have a bit of computer experience or who can cover the phones. Write down their contact info on the Helper list (it's on the Phone computer desktop). Find out when they're available & what kind of skills they have.

Adding volunteers to the calendar

We have a finite number of slots for volunteers on any given day. The calendar is where we schedule volunteers.

Be sure to ask the volunteer to phone us 24 hours in advance if they need to cancel. It's a good idea to ask them to write down the day & time that they are scheduled, so they don't forget. Make sure they have a FG business card.

  • Open a browser window (e.g. Firefox)
  • Type calendar and hit enter.
  • Click edit
You can now edit the page.

Regular Volunteers

  • Use your judgement about where to put them. Don't put beginners in Eval 2 for example. Dismantle and Eval 1 are good places for beginners, or sorting.
  • Type their name (first and last!).
  • Type what time they are planning to start (don't worry about the time they'll finish).
1pm is the default time, so don't bother recording it if that's the time they want to come.
If they want to come later than 1pm, type the time beside their name.

First-time volunteers

If the volunteer has not had a volunteer shift, they are a First-timer.

  • We can only have TWO first-timer slots per day on the calendar. Type "f-" before their name so that we know!
  • Dismantle and Predismantle are good places for first-timers.

Thrift Store

The thrift store is open the same hours as Free Geek. It is located on the second floor of 1820 Pandora. All our equipment is sold as is. We have a store credit return policy. Thrift Store Price Listcovers some basic items. We do not guarantee stock on any items.

Computer Donations

  • We take anything computer related, working or not, in any condition. (e.g. monitors, faxes, printers, modems, cables etc)
  • We do not accept: photocopiers, phones, TVs, VCRs, stereo equipment, typewriters, appliances like microwaves.
  • For items that we don't accept have people call 604-RECYCLE(732-9253).

More details are at [] under [what we take]

Computer Pickups

ALL PICK UPS must fill out the web form at, which can be reached via the "What we Take" link from the front of the website.


Please don't eat at the Phone Desk. Yes, it's tempting, but no one else is supposed to eat in the it would be cruel. You are welcome to take breaks; just let staff know so that someone can cover for you. You could also take the portable phone & a message pad down to the kitchen with you.

However, coffee, tea etc is a fine companion at the Phone Desk. It's a good idea to keep it in a place where it can't be easily knocked over by you or passers-by.

Common Questions