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Vistra Awards $75,000 to create and expand hot spot lending programs in Appalachian Ohio

Appalachian Ohio’s communities have long faced a digital divide. Compared to the state’s non-Appalachian region, Appalachian Ohio experiences slower internet connections, and fewer households are connected to the internet. That’s why the I’m a Child of Appalachia Fund at the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO) is working with Vistra Corp. to improve internet access for students and families.

Vistra has awarded a $75,000 grant to the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, which will directly support local organizations in their work to address connectivity gaps. Organizations will use funds to launch or expand hotspot lending programs, addressing gaps in connectivity throughout Appalachian Ohio’s communities.

“We are profoundly grateful for the support of Vistra as we work to connect more students and families with internet access,” said the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio’s president and CEO, Cara Dingus Brook. “Connectivity is especially critical right now, and these hotspots will provide a lasting benefit to our communities.”

FAO’s I’m a Child of Appalachia Fund will provide local organizations with hotspots, which community members may check out through hotspot lending programs, just like books from a library. These lending programs help individuals access remote learning, telehealth, remote work and other vital services. Targeting communities identified as having the greatest need for new or expanded hotspot lending programs, FAO is exploring partnerships in Lawrence, Clermont and Washington counties.

“The pandemic has put a spotlight on a serious and widening gap in our education system. For too many students, the playing field isn’t level when it comes to high-speed internet access – something we now know to be a necessity, not a luxury, for learning at the highest level,” said Brad Watson, director of community affairs for Vistra. “As a company, Vistra believes it will take the collective muscle of corporations, public policy makers, and groups like FAO to truly move the needle in closing the digital divide. Vistra is proud to be part of the solution for today’s students and communities across Appalachian Ohio.”

This I’m a Child of Appalachia Fund initiative builds upon recent grants to fund additional hotspot lending programs, community Wi-Fi access points at schools and in communities across the region, and a report that will track the region’s progress in overcoming the digital divide. FAO’s emergency response to COVID-19 also included funding to increase digital connectivity.

The I’m a Child of Appalachia Fund is dedicated to meeting the most pressing needs and pursuing the most promising opportunities for people and communities throughout the 32 counties of Appalachian Ohio.

The fund works across FAO’s five Pillars of Prosperity: Arts and Culture, Community and Economic Development, Education, Environmental Stewardship and Health and Human Services.

To learn more about this initiative or to support the I’m a Child of Appalachia Fund with a gift today, contact FAO at 740-753-1111 or visit www.AppalachianOhio.org.