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United Way secures $55K grant to target ‘digital divide’ in Orleans County

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 22 September 2020 at 8:27 am

United Way of Orleans County has been notified it has been awarded a $55,000 grant from the Western New York Covid-19 Community Response Fund, according to United Way executive director Dean Bellack.

Several months ago, Bellack organized a committee of representatives from a range of sectors and organization types, including United Way, Arc of Orleans/Genesee, Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension, Orleans County Adult Learning Services, Community Action of Orleans and Genesee, Genesee-Orleans Ministry of Concern, Orleans County YMCA, Boy Scouts of America/Iroquois Trail Council, Praising Kids Daycare, Project Liftoff, Claims Recovery Financial Services, Takeform, Orleans County Job Development Agency and representatives from Orleans County Legislature, Orleans County Economic Development and Orleans Microenterprise Assistance Program.

United Way was the lead agency for this collaborative of county stakeholders, which requested $55,000 to implement a planning process for a county wide solution bridging the digital divide, increasing residents’ digital literacy skills and increasing access to employment opportunities, according to information from Bellack.

County Legislator Ken DeRoller was a member of the committee.

“This grant allows us to jump start a proactive planning process to access solutions, to move Orleans County into the 21st century,” DeRoller said. “Digital Access is the equivalent to having electricity 80 years ago.”

This money will enable the county to hire a consultant through a six-month planning phase to establish an “Orleans Digital Literacy Education Initiative.”

“We will have to work feverishly to gather information from all areas, including schools, farmers, corporations, etc. and hire a consultant to put together our proposal for the next round of funding,” Bellack said. “This consultant will look at all areas and identify all the gaps in the county.”

Bellack praised Robert Batt at Cornell Cooperative Extension, who was the county’s key in consolidating the information into the white paper that was awarded the funding.

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