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President’s Report January 2024

Fancy Winter, Bing Image Creator, Burn-E. 

Happy New Year!  Here’s the latest report about our applications for grants, ideas for Innovate Chatham events, and how we are helping the community. 

If you like what we are doing, please contribute $25 for your annual membership for 2024. 

Here’s my update from the world’s only nonprofit focused on improving the lives of Chatham, NC, residents through technology.  Innovate Chatham uses our network of members and friends to help other nonprofits, residents, students, schools, and County government.  We focus on digital inclusion, STEM education, and monthly free public presentations on technical topics of interest.  Here is my report on what we have been doing lately.

Chatham Tech Talk


We had a fun time at Fair Game Beverage Company on December 14.  We solved a few puzzles and found some of them impossible.  We also discussed ways Innovate Chatham could draw additional people to future events.    

One of the ideas I liked best was to have some events where a volunteer would teach a skill to interested attendees.  Skills could be practical or artful.  Please let me know if you have ideas about what you want to learn or if you know someone who might want to teach or demonstrate.

Digital Inclusion

Chatham Digital Inclusion Plan

You may recall that starting in 2022, Innovate Chatham took the lead in developing the Chatham Digital Inclusion Plan, with input from 27 nonprofits and the County government.  The County has since taken up our plan and made excellent improvements.

The plan is still under final review by the County, including CCCC and the Council on Aging.  The County says they are aiming for approval by the County Commissioners by March.    The County and IC are referencing our plan in several places, including the Digital Champion Grant.  We hope this will be a resource for many nonprofits and County planning in the future.

Digital Champion Grant

The Federal government is providing funding to the State, and the state has chosen to take some of this funding to provide to nonprofits to support Digital Inclusion efforts in the form of a Digital Champion Grant.  This grant can be up to $400k per nonprofit, per County; and up to $1.5mm per nonprofit.  The project periods run for about 33 months.

We have had talks with the County and State about the Digital Champion Grant, and we are creating an Innovate Chatham grant proposal, plus helping the Right Here Right Now Project prepare their grant proposal. 

Don Kallgren, who has an extensive career as an electrical engineer in digital communications, is creating our grant proposal to install and provide service for up to 10 free public wireless stations around Chatham.   We are engaging the Siler City Town Council to install as many as six stations in Siler City parks.  We have had significant interest from Spectrum, which has agreed to install equipment at all the locations if we pay for service.  The grant proposal also includes up to 50 laptops and 50 hotspots for Chatham residents in need.  As of this publication, we have eight days to complete and submit the grant by January 22.

The RHRNP proposal would help 3000 Chatham and Alamance county residents with direct Digital Navigation assistance (things like helping with telehealth applications, replacing and updating apps on devices, and other very basic problems that many residents have), and very basic digital skills training for the least digital literate residents, especially in hard-to-reach communities.

We also sent a letter of support to Central Pines Regional Council’s grant proposal which covers digital skills training in Durham and Chatham Counties.

Mobile Hotspot Delivered

Communities in Schools identified a middle schooler with medical and learning challenges who couldn’t do homework because they had no internet service.  Working with the RHRNP, we bought a T-Mobile hotspot with a year of data service.  After testing the device at the student’s location, we delivered the unit and showed the student how to use it, testing it with their school Chromebook.

This is the type of service Innovate Chatham can bring to the community, and we will include this type of assistance in our Digital Champion Grant proposal.

STEM Education

Last year, Board member and STEM expert Erin Denniston supplied about 1200 kid-hours of STEM fun to the kids at the Boys and Girls Club in Pittsboro.  The kids there are mostly coming to the B&G Club from George Moses Horton Middle School after school.  Almost no kids knew what engineering was, and they certainly have a better idea of the creation and optimization process now.

Innovate Chatham supplied several Science and Engineering Fair judges to the county event in December.  Some of the kids we judged will now attend the regional NCSEF event in March.  If you want to be a judge, please get in touch with me (

The STEM Club and the Computer Club took a month off because the children were off due to the holidays.

Volunteer Opportunities

We are always interested in having additional volunteers.  In most cases, we prioritize opportunities based on volunteer interest.  So, let me know if you would like to help with any of these things, or you can suggest possibilities for us to help:

  • We would like to have some events to teach or demonstrate skills. Skills could be practical or artful.  Please let me know if you have ideas for what you would like to learn or know someone who might want to teach or demonstrate.
  • Technical topic presentation – we need topic and presenter suggestions for Tech Talk
  • STEM Club – we need volunteers to help
  • Instructor’s aides for basic computer classes
  • Tech Career Fairs – we always need a list of people to describe and discuss their tech careers at various high schools.
  • Science Fairs Judges – needed for Fall and spring to judge science and engineering projects while encouraging kids
  • Congressional App Challenge – we would like to help middle and high schoolers build their own simple software app that they can submit for recognition in a contest.  
  • Search engine optimization help, and social media help

Please let me know, and we can chat further about your interests.

You are very welcome to share this newsletter with anyone you like.

If you enjoy being part of the Innovate Chatham community, please consider taking the time to contribute an annual membership contribution of $25 for 2024. 

Not a member?  If you like our work at Innovate Chatham, please consider joining us as a paid member, which helps us cover the expenses of running the nonprofit.

Burney Waring
Innovate Chatham President

Innovate Chatham




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