Understanding Southern Virginia community investments for 2020-2021
The Microsoft Community Empowerment Fund provides funding to organizations in datacenter communities to support projects that deliver social, environmental, and economic development benefits. Through a transformational approach that encourages increased collaboration among contributors and award recipients, Microsoft partners with the community to develop ecosystems of local organizations that work together on common community priorities to achieve long-term, systemic, and holistic outcomes.
The Community Empowerment Fund initiative involves a three-step process intended to strengthen the partnership between Microsoft and the datacenter communities:
- Engage stakeholders. Project proposals are accepted monthly by invitation only, from local and regional non-profit and civic organizations that the local Microsoft team believes are best able to deliver on priorities identified by the community.
- Review portfolios. Each month, a cross-Microsoft governance team reviews the portfolio of proposed projects and approves funding.
- Build partnerships. Once a project is approved, the local datacenter community lead works with the award recipients to build ecosystems of local partners to collaborate on delivering holistic outcomes.
Over the last year, the Microsoft Datacenter Community Development team awarded funding to the following organizations in Southern Virginia:
Solar Research Institute
To ensure that Virginians seize the good, new-economy jobs that the solar industry is poised to create across the Commonwealth, this program prepares the Commonwealth of Virginia and its citizens to realize the benefits of utility-scale solar market growth, including increased employment and community development.
SOVA Innovation Hub
The TechSpark manager of Southern Virginia, Jeremy Satterfield, announced his signature project in partnership with Mid-Atlantic Broadband (MBC). MBC will invest over $5 million to build the SOVA Innovation Hub in South Boston, Virginia. Microsoft, through its TechSpark initiative, will use the space to encourage innovation and spur economic opportunities in the region. In addition to offering access to technology, it will use the center as a convening space to take advantage of regional partnerships to offer programming, workshops, and events that encourage entrepreneurism and expand digital skills and career pathways in the area. CEF dollars allocated to this project will outfit the “Microsoft Experience Center” space with technology to give all residents an opportunity to understand how all facets of industry can be affected with the inclusion of technology. The Experience Center will be designed to meet the needs of everyone, ranging from 3 years of age to 103. This project will be the focal point of technology throughout the entire region and used as a catalyst for learning and integration of technology across numerous industry sectors.
SOVA Innovation Hub Corporation
This award will contribute to Mecklenburg County Business’ sizable investment to build the SOVA Innovation Hub in South Boston, Virginia.
Tri-County Community Action Agency, Tech Access Lab
Tri-County Community Action Agency seeks to expand broadband access to residents of Mecklenburg County through educational and workforce programs. The agency will convert space at its Chase City Head Start building to a Tech Access Lab. It will utilize the space for the Girls Who Code program, workforce skills, and tech exploration as well as a space for youth and adults to come use computers for school and/or job search activities. The Lab will have evening and weekend hours to allow access for individuals who may work but are seeking to enhance their employability skills and/or explore opportunities for a career change.
Southside Virginia Community College Foundation, Pipeline Pilot, Go Get IT
The award for Southside Virginia Community College will enable technology skills training for high school girls (11th and 12th grade) and will offer instruction that aligns with the industry recognized certification, CompTIA IT fundamentals. Other topics in the classroom training include soft skills, resume, and LinkedIn profile development. The program will be taught onsite at Southside Virginia Community College and each student will earn community college credit for the coursework.
The Mecklenburg County Business Education Partnership, Inc.
The Mecklenburg County Business Education Partnership will use funding for several projects to help the schools of Mecklenburg County and provide the best education possible to the students in the county.
Palmer Springs Volunteer Fire Department, “A Driving Force for a Safer Community We Serve”
The Palmer Springs Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) is in the process of purchasing new extrication fire equipment for the local volunteer fire department. Palmer Springs VFD has always tried to better serve all the community and guests. In recent years there has been a decline in volunteers in the county, and three of the four EMS agencies have given up their extrication equipment and the mission and vision of extrication. That mission and vision has now fallen on the volunteer fire departments. With this new equipment, they will be set up to handle small and larger scale incidents.
Clarksville Volunteer Fire Department, personal protective equipment (PPE)
The Clarksville Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) will use funding to purchase four sets of firefighter personal protective equipment, also known as turnout gear. By NFPA regulations, turnout gear can only be in service for ten years before it must be replaced to meet or exceed current safety standards, and 50 percent of the Clarksville VFD’s inventory has reached this deadline. Without this critical equipment, firefighters will not be able to enter any hazardous zone to execute lifesaving rescue operations such as structure fire searches, vehicle extrication, or hazardous material spills.
Boydton Volunteer Fire Department, fire department airbags
The award will be used to equip Boydton Volunteer Fire Department with lifesaving critical equipment, improving the community by saving lives.
GRASP: Great Aspirations Scholarship Program, Inc.
GRASP fills a specific need in high school by educating students about how to fund post-secondary education and providing hands-on help to follow through with the required applications. This is an involved process made more complicated by an array of deadlines and necessary information. In-school advisors work within high school counseling departments where they are welcomed for their particular expertise in post-secondary financial aid. This funding will support GRASP counselors in three SoVA county schools.
MacCallum More—Green Spaces Program
MacCallum More’s mission is to be a premier cultural center for Southern Virginia, providing members and visitors with events and displays that are rich in educational, horticultural, historical, and artistic value. Key goals include maintenance of the arboretum and urban forest for the community. Funding will enable the Urban Forest Preservation Program including a new well, GIS inventory, and a tree tagging system. It will also fund a Green Spaces Educational Program and tree expansion program in Chase City.
Boydton Better Block pilot
Better Block Foundation is a nonprofit that educates, equips, and empowers communities to reshape and reactivate built environments to promote the growth of healthy and vibrant neighborhoods. Boydton, Virginia, struggles to attract and retain families due to lack of infrastructure that contributes to community livability and prosperity. The grant funds a pilot program in Boydton to demonstrate that investments in works such as mini-parks, pop-up community gathering spots, bike lanes, and other quick-win solutions can provide communities with needed infrastructure and be a catalyst for longer term investments without needing large complex urban planning processes or significant capital expenditures.