For the first time in her life, Miranda F. owns a computer – and thanks to generous private support from the Merancas Foundation, more adults in our community will receive this digital lifeline.
“Last fall I was new to Charlotte, had lost my job, and I was caring for five kids trying to keep up with virtual school in a pandemic,” Miranda recalls. “I needed help.”
She learned about the Library’s MeckTech initiative through a Facebook group. The collaboration with local partners was created to source, refurbish and distribute used laptops to adults who need them. MeckTech began in 2020 with funding from a Mecklenburg County CARES grant, United Way and City of Charlotte contributions. Within two weeks over 3,000 devices had been requested by the community, and by January of 2021, over 2,000 computers were distributed.
Miranda’s computer was one of the initial 2,000. “My 12-year-old helped set it up, and I started using it right away. I’ve been able to apply for jobs, interview and have meetings all from home. It’s been a lifesaver.”
But demand is greater than supply. Over 1,300 people remain on the MeckTech waiting list, and the need is much larger. Nearly 10% of our community doesn’t have reliable Wi-Fi service, and 20% don’t have a dedicated computer.
The Merancas Foundation stepped in to help with a gift of $100,000. The investment allows the Library to purchase and refurbish 325 more computers, reducing the waiting list by 25%.
The Merancas Foundation is committed to helping everyone in our community achieve self-sufficiency. While the digital divide isn’t new, the pandemic underscored its urgency. “In today’s Covid environment a computer with internet access is a vital resource to find employment, connect with healthcare providers and access community resources. The Merancas Foundation is pleased to support the Library’s efforts to make these devices available to those who need them most,” says Andy Mermans, Foundation Chairman and President.
Seth Ervin is the Library’s Innovation Leader, and he sees the immediate impact of the Merancas Foundation’s generosity. “Some people are in tears when we call to say a computer is ready for them. We’re committed to working our way through the rest of the waiting list as funding is available, and hopefully we’ll be able to open to more applicants.” MeckTech has earned an Innovation Award from Urban Libraries Council, an Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties, and become a model for other library systems.
For Miranda, her new computer allowed her family to settle in a new community during an especially challenging time. “I’m so grateful for all this computer makes possible for us. Before I learned about MeckTech, I’d never used a library in Charlotte – but now, my kids and I are regular customers and your biggest fans. Thank you.”
To provide additional support to MeckTech, contact Karen Beach at firstname.lastname@example.org.