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Digital Divides Are Now In the Spotlight: Here’s How We Have Helped And What You Can Do

An experience that impacts all of us can bring an issue into the forefront that has been obvious to others for years. Despite incredible losses from the past two years, we can thank this time for accelerating development of better ways of working and supporting people to ensure their success.

The attention now being given to digital access and equity allows us to first dive into the reality of living in a virtual world without access to Broadband, devices, or training to use digital tools. From a community foundation perspective, this means encouraging donors and others to imagine life as a striving employee, job seeker, single mother, or first generation student without the tools they–as donors–have at their fingertips. Investing in laptops, infrastructure, digital navigators, and a systems approach to the work help to level the playing field for all people. When we want others to thrive, we need to support them with the tools to access opportunity.

Thanks to The Knight Fund of Manatee Community Foundation, the digital navigator programs initiated at the Women’s Resource Center and UnidosNow through leadership from The Patterson Foundation have jointly received a $55,000 investment in people who will help community members in the Bradenton area access jobs, education, health, and other critical information needs. Their clients include single mothers, women in transition, Hispanic/Latino learners and changemakers.

As Dawn Stanhope, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County has shared, their students often only have access to laptops while at the Clubs. This is their time to do homework, research colleges, and access other information they need to remain on par with their classmates outside of school. Manatee Community Foundation’s investment in upgraded laptops is helping to level set their technology.

Palmetto Youth Center is a minority operated entity that has always had a focus on advancing
equity in our community through its service of children and teens. Manatee Community Foundation’s grant will enhance internet services, supporting the installation of fiber cable throughout the entire campus. The upgrade will increase its technology impact and virtual connectivity to allow the Center’s services to be expanded to individuals and programs outside of the local network. Collaborating with these networks will engage their youth and expand their opportunities to learn.

As an individual, there are many ways to support the powerful digital access work in our own community. It can be as simple as helping an adult learn the basics of navigating the internet to find information, funding a laptop for a student in need, or volunteering at a local nonprofit that is actively addressing the work.

As part of a foundation ecosystem in our region, we have loved seeing the collective work of The Patterson Foundation, William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, Community Foundation of Sarasota County, and Gulf Coast Community Foundation. We have partnered with each other, with nonprofits and others to ensure people in our communities have the tools to succeed in school and in life.