Stuck with roughly 650 aging laptops and PCs, Publix Super Markets Inc. wasn't eager to toss them in the landfill or dump them on just any unsuspecting charity.
With the help of United Way and Microsoft, the machines have been refurbished, loaded with new software and distributed in recent months to dozens of Central Florida nonprofit groups with limited means.
Twenty-five PCs went to Girls Inc. of Lakeland, where the machines were instantly put to use for summer computer camps.
Other machines went to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Central Florida Speech and Hearing Center, the Learning Resource Center, Volunteers in Service to the Elderly and other Polk nonprofits.
Outdated computers often aren't worth the hassle or expense of having them upgraded, which is what made the Publix and Microsoft partnership so special, said Kay Fields, executive director of Girls Inc.
"It's better than what we had," she said. "It's a win-win situation for everybody."
Employees of Lakeland-based Publix spent months installing the software and delivering and setting up the computers on their own time, said company spokeswoman Shannon Patten.
"There's such a spirit of giving within Publix. It's part of our culture," she said. "This is the first time we've partnered with someone like Microsoft to make the contribution so much more impactful."
The values of this supermarket chain, which operates more than 800 stories in five southeastern states, were shaped by its founder, George W. Jenkins, who began with a single store in Winter Haven, Fla., in 1930. Jenkins, known as "Mr. George" until his death in 1996, believed in customer service, charitable giving and sharing the wealth of his business with his workers, known as associates.
With more than $19 billion in revenues last year, Publix is one of the largest and fastest-growing employee-owned businesses in the nation. "This is a company where cashiers can retire as millionaires," says spokeswoman Maria Brous. The company gives generously to local nonprofits, and organizes its associates and customers to donate to national charities such as the Special Olympics.
This is one more reason to like Publix. They were our favorite grocery store when we lived in Florida. They are starting to show up in Tennessee, but unfortunately not in the Knoxville area yet. They have 642 stores in Florida, and are expanding around the South in Georgia (163 stores), South Carolina (37), Alabama (27), and Tennessee (13).