Connect for Tech Begins

"As we watched businesses, schools, health care—in essence, people— scrambling to adjust to the uncertainties of COVID-19, we wanted to do everything we could to help our community."




David and Nicole Tepper Charitable Foundation

David and Nicole Tepper Charitable Foundation

M.C. Belk

President & Board Chair

President & Board Chair

John M. Belk Endowment

John M. Belk Endowment

Gene Matthews



David Belk Cannon Foundation

David Belk Cannon Foundation


In March of 2020 when Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools first closed school buildings due to the pandemic, the CMS Foundation set out to raise $1,000,000 to purchase 6,000 mobile hotspots with internet service for students without home internet access. Three organizations quickly came together to respond to this need. Their support helped students stay connected to teachers, classmates, and critical community resources during the early months of the COVID-19 crisis.

Nicole Tepper:

“Dave and I really believe in the importance of education for all children, and it was heartbreaking to think that the pandemic had made it so difficult for many students to learn and participate in school. By providing the hotspots, we saw an opportunity to help those students who didn’t have the benefit of consistent internet access to attend classes virtually. The parents, families and friends that helped these students succeed in school during an incredibly difficult time deserve the credit, and Dave and I were very thankful for our chance to play a small part in that.”

M.C. Belk Pilon:

“The John M. Belk Endowment was honored to participate in the "Connect for Tech" effort to help address bridging the digital divide in our community. We must never forget that the equity and technology gaps should stay at the forefront of our minds at the local, state, and federal levels if we want to help shape a more equitable workforce of today and tomorrow.”

Gene Matthews:

“When we received the invitation from The John M. Belk Endowment to partner with them and The Tepper Foundation we jumped at the chance. As we watched businesses, schools, health care—in essence, people— scrambling to adjust to the uncertainties of COVID-19, we wanted to do everything we could to help our community. The pandemic highlighted the digital divide in our region, and having the opportunity to join with these two outstanding foundations to provide Internet hot spots gave us the chance to help students stay connected to their studies and alleviate some of the stress on their families. We were proud to reach across the borders of Gaston County in a joint effort to help the children of Mecklenburg County.”

- Nicole, M.C. & Gene

At the start of the 2020-21 school year, an estimated 16,000 households with CMS students still lacked adequate home connectivity. The school district was able to invest $1 million to purchase mobile hotspots for students, but was unable to use funds for monthly internet service for the devices. In response to this need, the CMS Foundation asked our community to “Connect for Tech” to close the connectivity gap by helping us raise an additional $3.2 million to cover the cost of internet service for a year. Through a combination of private and public support, we exceeded our ambitious goal. More than 2,000 individuals, community organizations, businesses, and public entities helped provide the resources needed to fill the estimated connectivity gap in CMS. You can learn more about this effort here.


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