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Donating computers is a family affair

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OGDEN — Alan Brown and his son-in-law, Mike London, have always played with computers.

Taking the machines apart, repairing them for friends or rebuilding new ones — it seemed like their collection of spare computer parts and pieces was always growing.

That's when they started building computers and giving them away.

"We do this stuff for fun anyway; why not make it useful?" Brown, who works for the Weber School District, said.

Brown and London, a computer technician for the IRS, realized they had almost everything they needed, from monitors to modems to keyboards, to build simple computers for anyone who might need them. They could buy the parts they didn't have.

In the past two years they've rebuilt and given away 90 computers to children, all on their own time and out of their own pockets.

Four months ago they turned their hobby into a foundation. The nonprofit group is called the Wasatch Front Computer Distribution and Literacy for Everyone Organization, or Computers for Kids in shorthand. Brown and London hope to build and donate 5,000 computers over the next three years.

"Kids learn (to work on computers) at school but can't go home and use it," said Brown. He said he's seen the problem firsthand working for the school district.

"Here are these kids staying after school to do their homework because they haven't got a computer at home."

The decision to build and donate computers came easily.

"You never know who the next Bill Gates will be," said London.

So Brown and London, working through Your Community Connection in Ogden, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, the Layton Children's Center and the Ogden Rescue Mission, have been placing computers in the homes of children whose families lack the means to buy them.

Sherry Harris, director of Your Community Connection, said they had been contacted by London and are open to working with him and Brown.

"It's fun to make people happy," London said.

Brown said the children really respond to getting the computers, almost more than the parents.

"It's really fun to see the kids show off to mom and dad what they can do," he said.

As their operation has grown, Brown and London have begun soliciting businesses and local residents to donate old computer parts to their foundation.

Many companies have stockpiled old computers and monitors as they've updated their systems, said London. Through soliciting different businesses, they've received old computers from all over the Wasatch Front. Hill Air Force Base, Iomega and various Ogden businesses have all donated parts, he said.

London said as neighbors have found out what he and his father-in-law are doing they have given up their old computers for the cause.

Many families got new computers for Christmas this year, and Computers for Kids could do a lot with the old computers they replace, London said.

Starting with the new year, Brown and London will begin approaching senior citizen centers to donate computers and help teach computer literacy to the residents. They also have plans to put computers into homeless shelters.

They are also trying to get local Internet service providers to donate Internet accounts so that some of those who receive a computer can also get Internet access.

Brown's dream is to expand Computers for Kids to the point where he and London can move from his den to a warehouse and employ high school students to help put the computers together.

"We're not wealthy," he said. "But it's something we do."

E-mail: rrogers@desnews.com