In this day and age, the internet not only provides information but a means of connection. The importance of the internet is evident in everyday life, such as using phones, computers, and other technology. However, COVID-19 and its effects have heightened its prominence. For instance, the introduction of online learning for many students required WiFi and the internet to be successful for learning. Additionally, while in quarantine, there was little contact with others. Thus, leaving many with only the internet as a means of connection and social interaction. 

The Middleburg community recognized the many challenges that arose out of COVID. The actions of the Windy Hill Foundation, a local non-profit that provides housing and services to lower-income residents, reflected this. After reflecting on the current situations regarding COVID-19 and present-day life, Windy Hill decided to provide free WiFi to the residents. They wired two buildings, including their community rooms and offices, with WiFi. With the help of Loudoun County and the CARES Act, they transformed their vision into reality.

 Bob Dale, Executive Director for Windy Hill Foundation, said, “Windy Hill also received a grant from the Rotary Club of Leesburg Daybreak to supply tablets to the residents of Levis. The combination of the WiFi network, and the tablets, will allow them to access the internet in helpful ways. They will be able to view a calendar of events, access health information, and communicate with their families. We continue to strive to address the digital divide in all our communities, including those in more rural areas of Fauquier County where the internet is a challenge.” Previously, Windy Hill Foundation provided a computer lab with WiFi in the community room at one of the housing properties. That way, people could use the internet and kids could do school work. Thus, WiFi throughout entire buildings was a new initiative. However, adding wireless hotspots was not a drastic change. Some residents already had their own internet and were comfortable navigating it.

Nevertheless, this is not a minor addition. It allows residents to switch to the new internet and save money. For example, one resident of Levis Hill House said, “I have been using the WiFi to test it before I cancel my internet subscription. I am optimistic that it will be able to serve my needs for the internet. This will help me save my limited budget for other necessities.” Therefore, the addition of the internet will provide monthly savings for people who use it solely. Additionally, it adds another access point to the internet. 

Currently, the WiFi hotspots are in place. Wires were placed in the ceilings and through the walls, allowing the two whole buildings to have WiFi. In addition to WiFi, Windy Hill is supplying tablets for the seniors and running computer training. Lisa Capraro, Marketing Director for Windy Hill, added,  “We don’t expect every resident to embrace the technology right away. But with the buildings, offices, and community rooms wired to the two communities, it provides many possibilities to tailor our programs and services to meet the needs of the residents going forward. Having the access in place now opens many doors for the future.” The addition of WiFi at Windy Hill was a response to the reality that everyone is dependent on having an efficient internet connection. This, along with the unprecedented effects of COVID-19, motivated the addition. The internet is critical for people to lead their everyday life. Overall, Windy Hill provides the means for fast, efficient internet and the training to use it to make sure the residents have opportunities available.

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