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Firm treats charities to early Christmas

For representatives of two dozen charities, the chilly snowy weather only made it feel more like Christmas as they lined up in front of Uinta Business Systems doors early Friday.

The office equipment company gave away used computers, copiers, printers and fax machines on a first-come, first-served basis in its Second Annual Donation Day to about 25 pre-selected nonprofit organizations. All of the machines are a year or two old but still in good working order.Joe Weis, president of Uinta Business Systems, came up with the annual giveaway to bring order to the many requests the company receives for help.

"We get three to five requests a month, everything from mainstream charities to individual hardship situations," he said.

Donations were made in a hit-or-miss fashion: if a group called when the company happened to be turning over a machine, it might luck out and get a donation.

"We just wanted to get it more organized," Weis said. "Being in an industry that has a very high rate of change, we find ourselves, both in internal use and with demo equipment, turning over lots of business equipment that is still very functional but for our needs has outlived its purpose."

So the company's three offices, which include Orem and Ogden, began listing all donation requests in a database. As Donation Day nears, staff spruces up the machines - even buying new monitors to go along with some computer hard drives.

"It is something that makes the employees here feel they are really contributing something," he said. "In some cases, they've helped get the equipment ready on their own time."

In early October the company selected two dozen groups and sent out letters inviting them to the giveaway. Making it first come, first serve spares Weis and his staff from having to decide who gets what.

Last year the Legal Aid Society and the Utah Special Olympics were among the groups who went home with 386 computers.

This year, the groups who showed up to get equipment included the Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, and the Homeless Children's Foundation.

"The Homeless Children's Foundation was hugging the copier so I think they really needed a copier," said Stella Narajowski, marketing manager for Uinta.

Special Olympics told Weis it put its machine to work building a database that allowed it to be much more efficient.

Weis said businesses often will give or sell used equipment to employees or make donations in the same willy-nilly fashion he once did. "We've tried to make it a lot more organized and do it so we can help the people we think need it the most, who have tight budgets and no funds for this sort of equipment."