When the coronavirus crisis hit Charlotte, the United Way of Central Carolinas and Foundation For The Carolinas partnered to launch the COVID-19 Response Fund.
The fund supports a range of nonprofits, assisting people most affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Importantly, this fund will help not just those who get sick, but also those who are being economically impacted.
One of the grant recipients was $20,000 to E2D (Eliminate the Digital Divide), which provides refurbished and donated laptops to students and families.
E2D runs laptop refurbishment labs led by high school students throughout Mecklenburg County. Due to the coronavirus, it has had to shutter four high school-based labs and furlough over 40 lab techs.
“With this grant, we have opened an excellent state-of-the-art temporary lab and can now hire back up to 16 employees,” said Pat Millen, president and co-founder of E2D.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, E2D’s typical streams of incoming laptops it receives from businesses have shrunk considerably. Many of those same companies have had to send that same inventory home with their own employees.
E2D’s mission is to ensure that every student in North Carolina has affordable access to essential at-home technology and digital literacy training to support academic success and prepare students for college, careers and beyond.
“With this pandemic, CLT’s need for digital technology for ALL of its residents has never been more acute. With the reopening of school in August, we know that regardless of the format that teaching/learning process will take, home-based computer access will be critical,” Millen said.
Given the clarity that has emerged regarding the digital divide for students, Millen believes that in the long term there will be a better and more consistent response to providing technology to families within the social safety net.
“One hundred percent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg families need access to home-based computers and digital broadband access,” Millen said.
Since 2013, E2D and a broad-based coalition of municipal leaders, corporate supporters, community educators, college students and hundreds of civic volunteers in the Charlotte region have come together to study the pervasiveness of digital exclusion and to create digital solutions one family at a time.
Over seven years, E2D has made great strides to create digital solutions for families in the greater Charlotte community.
“I’m optimistic that digital inclusion solutions will emerge on the other side of this pandemic and families with need presently will access this technology soon and prosper as a result,” Millen said.
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