COMCAST and YWCA Lifting Communities Together
In time, we will learn more about how 2020 shaped our society for the future. One outcome we can be certain of is this; the long and difficult year helped us identify opportunities to provide extra care and support in our communities. Finding and addressing these opportunities will hopefully lead to long term changes that result in a stronger society.
One example of a recent positive change is helping connect people in need to the Internet so they can fully participate in educational opportunities and the digital economy. This change is exemplified in recent partnership between YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish and Comcast. Together, they are helping women and families of color access free Wi-Fi resources. In a unique time in history, these two organization find themselves in a unique place with an ability to lift communities.
YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish is currently the Pacific Northwest’s largest and longest running organization that continues to help and support women and families in need. With programs that serve more than 10,000 people each year, YWCA is on a mission to eliminate racism, empower women, stand for social justice, help families, and strengthen communities.
During the global pandemic, YWCA jumped to find the services and supplies for those within their reach. The organization partnered with the University of Washington Medicine to provide free COVID testing for YWCA residents and community members within the downtown Seattle area. They rallied volunteers to help deliver food boxes to more than 200 families in Seattle with the Central Area Food Bank. YWCA even launched Work$Ready, an online training program that taught new job readiness to those who lost their jobs or took pay cuts. As time has passed, YWCA has since shifted from crisis response to crisis management by partnering with Comcast with plans to continue community growth.
The majority of Americans are experiencing a measure of online communication and online “living” like never before. After a year spent in the online office or classroom, the adaption of the virtual workspace has grown past temporary living into a new enterprise and the necessity of WiFi access skyrocketed when shifting to the remote lifestyle. Connecting 10 million homes and counting, including more than 140,000 here in Washington state, Comcast’s Internet Essentials program has worked to address the issue of access to internet and technology resources through a comprehensive program that includes digital literacy education and training, access to subsidized computer equipment and low-cost high-speed internet for $9.95 per month. Through this three-pronged approach Internet Essentials Internet Essentials is addressing internet access gaps in our state that adversely impact low-income and disenfranchised communities.
To extend this program and connect even more people to the internet during the pandemic, Comcast expanded Internet Essentials in 2020 to partner with local community groups to provide free Wi-Fi in centers for the next three years. Dubbed “Lift Zones”, this program gives nonprofits and cities with buildings open to the community high-speed internet that people can connect to for online schooling, work related activities, and more.
Upon seeing the increasing need for support in this area from members of our community , Comcast has teamed up with YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish in support of women and children in need of online access through this new Lift Zone program.
Comcast has worked to create four Lift Zones across locations that YWCA serves, and at YWCA facilities, to ensure women and families have access to the internet. YWCA’s Greenbridge Learning Center is a WiFi hub equipped to reach out further than the building itself and bring high speed internet connectivity for residents in the surrounding area. The Somerset Village Apartments, Passage Point and the Willows are all home to YWCA supported families in need of assistance with an internet harbor planned to contribute to countless educations and employment during the digital age.
Each installation of a Lift Zone provides a safe space for community members to get connected and continues the effort to bridge the gap between the educational and economic advancement. Since the launch of this project in Fall 2020, Comcast has since installed over 40 Lift Zones within the King, Snohomish and Spokane counties.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic has increased people’s reliance on technology to meet their basic needs, online connectivity has become an essential lifeline for work, distance learning, telemedicine, and other critical services. We’re grateful for the partnership of Comcast in helping narrow the digital divide for women and BIPOC communities in our region,” said Maria Chavez-Wilcox, Chief Executive Officer, YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish. This partnership has benefited the lives of many and brought the community together in a time of need.
Together, Comcast and YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish, have the distinct and once in a lifetime opportunity to step in and bring invaluable connections to members of our community who need it more than ever, and they are prepared for this task.