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Charlotte, NC

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2020

Project Category: Access to high-speed internet

Description: Work-from-home protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the digital divide between those with high-speed internet access at home and those without a fast connection. To bridge that rift, the North End Community Coalition began a Wi-Fi lending program. The initiative allows residents to borrow tablets and hotspot devices for up to three weeks at no cost. In addition, the coalition partnered with local schools to provide hotspots and tablets to students. To bring connectivity to Charlotte's older residents, the coalition also wired two local senior apartment complexes for free Wi-Fi access. NECC has continued to work toward greater digital access by offering technology training. In 2022, the organization hosted an event with the Center for Digital Equity where North End residents received free laptops, met with digital navigators and had the option to sign up for reduced-cost internet service.

Wichita, KS

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2019

Project Category: Access to high-speed internet

Description: Like many Americans living below the federal poverty level, many residents of Wichita had no easy way to access the internet. To solve this the City of Wichita launched the Wichita Hot Spot initiative. Older adults living in low-income areas can now check out a mobile connectivity device from a Neighborhood Resource Center and use it at home for up to two weeks. The hot spots -- small devices that provide a wireless internet connection -- are meant to be easy for older adults to activate, helping reduce social isolation and narrow the digital divide. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the hot spots continued to be popular, and the program's success led the City to request a Community Development Block Grant to purchase more devices.

Nearby AARP Community Challenge Projects

Chicago, IL

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2018

Project Category: Public space activation

Description: To promote walkability, economic development and better quality of life for residents, the Chicago Department of Transportation created a replicable prototype for a People Spot. Consisting of a wooden platform, the People Spots transform on-street parking spaces into outdoor patios. To help neighborhood groups set up their own People Spots, the City published construction plans and an assembly manual for the parklets online. Part of the City's Livable Streets Program, organizers say the temporary infrastructure helps neighborhoods overcome economic hardship by encouraging residents to walk and frequent local businesses. The City installed its first People Spot in the South Side Chatham neighborhood in 2018. That iteration measured about six feet wide by 20 feet long, but the platforms can be as long as 80 feet.

Chicago, IL

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2020

Project Category: Community Gardens

Description: The El Paseo Community Garden in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood added a new gathering space, dubbed El Convivio or The Gathering. The goal of the project was to make the garden more accessible to Latino older adults living in nearby apartment buildings. Improvements to the space include an outdoor kitchen and patio with a fire pit, ADA-compliant seating, walking paths and an accessible planting station. Planters at the site were specifically designed to grow culturally relevant produce, including tomatoes, peppers, garlic and onions. The picnic area's stucco and ceramic tiles mimic designs seen in Mexican haciendas. Garden leaders partnered with nonprofit architectural firm Human Scale to involve garden members in the space's design and volunteers from the neighborhood installed the new amenities. As El Paseo's leadership finalized El Convivio, they also worked with the City of Chicago to secured additional land to expand the garden.

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