Project Scientist was the catalyst for Aida to choose biomedical engineering as her field of study at UNC Charlotte. Project Scientist has middle schooler, Bennett, conducting all kinds of environmental experiments at home. These are two of thousands of girls whose STEM interests have been piqued thanks to Project Scientist, known for its programs that challenge the status quo by exposing girls, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, and now location to quality programming centered around science, technology, engineering and math.
While the digital divide is nothing new, the coronavirus pandemic has served to magnify the issue. With the majority of our work, learning and even social lives moving online in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19, the digital divide for low-income and rural households both in our own backyard and around the country is more visible now than ever before.
What is the “digital divide”?
Let’s back up and start by defining this buzzworthy term “digital divide”.
Simply put, the digital divide refers to the gulf between those who have ready access to computers and the internet, and those who do not.
“I didn’t want to be just a person getting by, I wanted to LIVE and also show my children that it’s a part of life - that the harder you work, you can make things better for yourself,” former Charlotte Family Housing (CFH) Client and now Board Member, Lamont, reflects.
Thanks to CFH’s partnership with Goodwill Career Center, Lamont participated in a 12-week training program for HVAC repair and now has his own business and owns his own home.
Did you know that approximately 552,830 people in the United States are homeless? As of 2018, NC alone had an estimated homeless population of 9,268. And those numbers are pre-pandemic, which has increased housing instability across the nation.
Started in 2017, Hope Vibes was originally founded in response to the need of homeless women in the Charlotte area not having access to feminine hygiene products. They helped provide basic hygiene needs to the homeless population in the Charlotte metro area by collecting items from the local community to pass out on the streets and in shelters. All this in addition to raising awareness of the homeless crisis through public speaking opportunities at K-12 schools, universities, and other local platforms.
Dignity matters. For people moving through homelessness, it can be the key to restoring health, housing, and stability. That's why dignity is at the heart of Project Outpour's mission. The Charlotte-based nonprofit provides shower access to men and women moving through homelessness, alleviating suffering and promoting holistic health and dignity.
"Being and feeling clean gives people a sense of dignity," says Laura Gorecki, Project Outpour's Chief Dignity Officer. "It gives the confidence to walk into public spaces, to seek assistance, to go on a job interview." Shower access also has practical physical and mental health benefits, relieving social alienation and preventing infections and other medical issues.
Like so many organizations, the past year has looked dramatically different for local nonprofit RunningWorks. This Charlotte-based organization has a keen focus on stopping the destructive cycle of homelessness through its values-led, mentorship-driven programming.
RunningWorks was established in 2012 and promotes volunteerism as a key component of rehabilitation as it promotes dignity and purpose for team members who are struggling through hard times. The goal is to foster self-improvement over the long term through the development of discipline, confidence, team-work and self-respect.
Bright Blessings lives up to its name, as a bright spot in the lives of local homeless and impoverished children by helping them celebrate their birthdays. Bright Blessings has grown since its founding by Amy and John Cervantes in 2005 to now include programs like Bless-a- Baby, which provides baskets of newborn items for new homeless and impoverished mothers and babies.
“COVID has certainly affected what we are able to do now, as a great deal of our birthday care packages were delivered via CMS schools which are not in person right now,” shared Tisha Henderson, Executive Director, Bright Blessings. “We are still sending supplies to shelters, which have been each handling their celebrations differently.”
As we all know, 2020 was a tough year - especially for our nonprofit community. Despite the hope that a new year brings, COVID-19 continues to make fundraising challenging. The pandemic’s impact on our economy has also resulted in a higher demand for nonprofit services, especially those related to housing, food, mental health, foster care, access to technology, education and domestic violence - forcing many nonprofits to reimagine the way they serve their constituents.
Additionally, 2020’s protests for racial equality as well as the recent availability of data demonstrating funding inequities for Black-led social change has put a spotlight on Black-led, Black-benefitting organizations. With a heightened awareness of the inequality in giving that exists, it is up to donors and funders to intentionally invest in Black-led and Black-benefitting nonprofits to promote racial equity.
Joining global observances of Black Philanthropy Month (BPM), a local group came together in a big way this year, resulting in Charlotte prevailing as the most engaged city, worldwide. New Generation of African American Philanthropists (NGAAP), a Charlotte-based philanthropic collective, teamed up with My Brother’s Keeper-CLT-MECK, the National PanHellenic Council-Charlotte Chapter, SHARE Charlotte and YMCA of Greater Charlotte to form a powerful collaborative, elevating the presence of Black-led nonprofits and generosity in Black communities.
Together, these five organizations launched #BPM2020CLT, a community-wide campaign throughout August 2020 to generate resources and support specifically for Black-led nonprofits during this year’s Black Philanthropy Month and beyond. Charlotte’s month-long campaign exceeded expectations in its first year.
We have so much great news to share from our nonprofit partners about their amazing work. But, we'd love to hear from you. Let us know if you have stories you'd like to tell and we'll make you a guest blogger!!