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The Hackney, Rotary fundraiser meets goal for student hotspots

A joint effort by The Hackney and the Washington (noon) Rotary Club has raised $64,000 to fully fund the purchase of wireless hotspots for nearly 200 Beaufort County Schools students in need. Prompting contributions from individuals and businesses throughout the county, the funds were raised in the span of just two and a half weeks.

“We’ve reached out to the community, and the money just kept coming in,” said The Hackney owner Nick Sanders. “It came from individuals, companies and some of our local nonprofits. It just shows the generosity of the community and their recognition that this pandemic is causing a lot of problems for certain people. I think people have felt like contributing to this is something they can do that will make a difference.”

While the school system had invested considerably in technology and internet access for students before the fall semester, purchasing 1,068 wireless hotspots, approximately 200 additional students needed hotspots when the school year started. BCS Superintendent Matthew Cheeseman said that additional need was not reflected in parent surveys conducted earlier this year, and those kids had to be placed on a waiting list to get a hotspot.

To help organize the fundraiser, The Hackney partnered with Washington (noon) Rotary Club. In addition to help leverage fundraising, the club was able to establish a special fund via the district-level Rotary foundation, which allowed contributors to donate in a way that would be tax-deductible.

“I’m mightily impressed with the generosity and thoughtfulness of the people of Beaufort County,” said Bob Douglas, one of the Rotarians who helped spearhead the fundraiser. “As a lifelong educator, it does your heart good to know that people here care so deeply about the education of their children and are willing, in these unprecedented economic times, to reach into their personal finances and share with families and kids across this county.”

Adding to the funds raised by The Hackney and Rotary, BCS was also recently selected to receive a $5,000 BAND-NC Rapid Response Community Innovation Grant to help bridge the digital divide. These grants were designed to rapidly address pressing technology needs throughout the state. This fall, the grantees will be invited to join in technical assistance workshops to help address digital inclusion in their local communities.

According to BCS Student Services Director Ashley Padgett, as soon as the Beaufort County Board of Education approves acceptance of the fundraiser funds during its Sept. 15 meeting, the process of getting hotspots out to students should happen quickly.

“Everything is ready to go, as soon as that approval happens,” Padgett said. “The people we’re ordering from are ready to ship, so it should be a really fast turnaround. For the kids on the waiting list, we’re doing some alternative activities, and the teachers are working with them.”