Lake Norman & Mooresville

E2D named most innovative at Digital Inclusion awards

E2D President Pat Millen, left, Davidson Mayor John Woods and E2D board member Lisa Combs accepted the award at the National League of Cities meeting in Nashville, Tenn., Nov. 5.
E2D President Pat Millen, left, Davidson Mayor John Woods and E2D board member Lisa Combs accepted the award at the National League of Cities meeting in Nashville, Tenn., Nov. 5.

Davidson nonprofit E2D and the town of Davidson have made strides in closing the gap between the area’s technology haves and have-nots.

On Nov. 5, in Nashville, Tenn., the program that gives computers and training to families in need in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools was honored as the “most innovative” in a national awards program.

The award came at the National League of Cities Congress of Cities, where E2D founder Pat Millen, board member Lisa Combs and Davidson Mayor John Woods were there to receive it. E2D stands for Eliminate the Digital Divide.

E2D and Davidson were among six winners of the first Digital Inclusion Leadership Awards, presented by Next Century Cities, the National League of Cities and Google Fiber. The awards were created to recognize local governments that are creating or supporting community organizations working to eliminate barriers to Internet adoption.

Other winners were all major cities – Philadelphia, Seattle, Austin, Texas, Chattanooga, Tenn., and Washington.

“Davidson is always seeking ways to help our citizens achieve the highest standard of living available to them. E2D has been essential to our community’s response to the digital divide, and we know that our school students are profiting from the E2D program every day,” Woods said in a news release.

E2D was one of two national Digital Inclusion Best Practices winners, recognized as the nation’s “Most Innovative Program.”

Accomplishments in three years

E2D was founded in Davidson three years ago, after Bailey Middle School seventh-grader Franny Millen – Pat Millen’s daughter –observed that many kids in her school didn’t have computers at home. They were at a big disadvantage, she realized, because many class assignments required computers.

“This isn’t fair. What are we going to do about it?” she said, according to Pat Millen.

The family – Pat and Franny, brother Paddy and mother Eileen Keeley – formed a the nonprofit organization, initially called End Davidson’s Digital Divide, or E3D, and began working with other nonprofits and public schools. The town of Davidson supported the program, as did the Ada Jenkins Center, a community social services center on Davidson’s west side. Davidson College students were among the group’s first volunteers.

E2D also got grants and donations from local corporations and began distributing computers to families in need.

Initially, E2D gave computers to 100 percent of the families in need at Davidson Elementary School. Since then, the program has expanded to all the elementary, middle and high schools in north Mecklenburg and this year began distributions in Charlotte. In September, the group gave out computers and offered training for students at five Charlotte high schools – West Charlotte, Garringer, West Meck, Harding, Vance.

As of this month, the program has helped more than 800 families at 18 different schools.

“I think today’s award really acknowledges what an incredible town Davidson is,” Pat Millen said in announcing the ward. “The recipe for E2D’s success is in the plurality of partners that have joined in these solutions – from the generosity of big companies like Lowe’s to the bee-hive hustling of hundreds of elementary school children raising money for us with lemonade stands in front of their houses.”

David Boraks is a freelance writer.