The Roberts family

Aileen and Brian Roberts, center, visit Philadelphia students in 2017. — Courtesy of the Comcast Corporation

In response to the coronavirus crisis, local business people, sports celebrities, educators and average citizens have stepped up to help by donating money, time and other resources.

For example, Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts, his wife Aileen and their family have pledged $5 million to buy laptops that will go toward virtual learning for students in the School District of Philadelphia who are out of the classroom due to the pandemic. About half of the students in the district don’t have a home computer.

The Roberts family gift to the district will get up to 50,000 Chromebook laptop computers into the hands of students, according to the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia. It covers nearly half of the $11 million the district said it needs to even the playing field for learning in Philadelphia, where computer access and internet connectivity is lagging.

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“When we heard that many Philadelphia students weren’t going to be able to learn from home without laptops, we quickly decided we wanted to help and provide these teachers, parents and students with the technology they need to begin learning online,” the Roberts family said in a news release. “In good times or bad, now all of our Philadelphia students will have access to technology to help them succeed.”

A 2019 survey by the district found that only 45% of students in grades 3-5, 56% of students in grades 6-8 and 58% of students in grades 9-12 have access to the internet from a home computer.

“The generous gift from Aileen and Brian Roberts and their family will help to transform the learning experience for thousands of Philadelphia’s public school students who will now be able to access online educational resources from home,” said Superintendent William Hite Jr.

Sixers star Ben Simmons should also be applauded for using his influence to launch “The Philly Pledge,” which encourages Philadelphians to donate to two local organizations, Philabundance and the PHL COVID-19 Fund, helping with coronavirus relief.

Philabundance is a hunger relief organization, and the PHL COVID-19 Fund aims to “help our nonprofit community navigate near-and longer-term challenges from COVID-19 and ensure that critical resources remain available for those in our community who need it most.”

Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid has pledged to donate $500,000 to COVID-19 medical relief efforts.

The Philadelphia 76ers team owners, Josh Harris and David Blitzer, have made a six-figure donation to Philabundance. That money will be used to create 20,000 food boxes that will feed 160,000 people across the region.

The Sixers also committed funds to purchase 10,000 Chromebooks for students in the School District of Philadelphia.

“I’m told this is just the start of what the Sixers will be doing to help our city and its residents in this time of need,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “I thank Josh Harris, David Blitzer, and the entire Sixers organization for their tremendous commitment and for being leaders in our community.”

In response to the urgent need for medical supplies and ventilators at area hospitals and health care facilities due to COVID-19, Delaware County Community College recently loaned a ventilator and donated surgical gloves, disposable gowns, hand sanitizer, biohazard bags and other equipment and supplies to local hospitals and health care facilities in Delaware and Chester counties.

The college also loaned a ventilator to Crozer-Chester Medical Center, which partners with the college to provide training to students pursuing careers in respiratory therapy.

“We are seeking to do everything we can to help our health care professionals who are on the front lines in this difficult, unprecedented fight against COVID-19,” said Dr. L. Joy Gates Black, president of Delaware County Community College.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of the local leaders digging in and pitching in a crisis.

These acts of generosity help bring a light to the darkness caused by the coronavirus. In these times it is important to remember that people across the region are giving of their money and time to help others in need.

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