Salvation Army Lift Zones bring the internet to those in need in Colorado and Utah

As schools across the U.S. shifted to remote learning at the height of the pandemic in 2020, many Salvation Army facilities adapted to become remote learning centers for kids to attend school virtually. And throughout that time, something became clear: a gap existed in internet accessibility.

In response, Comcast selected Salvation Army Intermountain Division corps and centers across Colorado and Utah as Lift Zones — boosting internet speed, bandwidth and access points to support online programming for people The Salvation Army serves, including youth and veterans.

“Internet access is just kind of necessary in every aspect of our lives. That’s how you apply for jobs. That’s how you secure housing. That’s how kids get homework done and submitted,” said Melissa McKewen, Director of Corporate and Community Relations for The Salvation Army Intermountain Division. 

Lift Zone installation began in Colorado, with The Salvation Army Colorado Springs Corps, Denver Red Shield, Denver Harbor Light Center and the Lambuth Family Center.  

“Having [children] be able to access the internet allows them to…complete their homework, stay caught up with their schoolwork and grow the skills they’re going to need, like typing. They have program tutorials as part of all of this where they can learn to use Excel or Word or all of these programs that maybe they don’t know how to use,” McKewen said. “For our residents in recovery or at a homeless shelter, it allows them to apply for housing or apply for the Veterans Affairs benefits or any number of things…Our facilities didn’t have internet access throughout and now they’ll be able to utilize these Lift Zones to access the internet to apply for essential services.” 

The three-year partnership with Comcast covers the cost of installation, hardware and software and enhanced WiFi access throughout Salvation Army facilities. 

“It’s just a wonderful opportunity to provide a service that so many people don’t have or may not be able to afford,” McKewen said. 

The Salvation Army Colorado Springs Corps and Denver Red Shield are already mapping out how their improved internet access can be used in existing youth programs in the upcoming school year. 

Colorado Springs Corps Officer Captain Doug Hanson said being a Lift Zone will help with internet accessibility in the computer lab for its afterschool program and future technology-based youth programming expansion efforts.  

“Now everything you do is online, so we are looking to expand in our technology side of things for offerings for kids to use more internet-based software to teach the kids more technology skills,” Hanson said. “We anticipate that as we expand into that we will use this increased bandwidth.”

The Denver Red Shield will also utilize the Lift Zone program to support its afterschool youth programming so kids will be able to get online to complete their homework and learn.

“We are in an era where it is an issue when kids can’t get online. This place is open to anybody, so any children who need help, we’re available to them,” said Lt. Mandy Hall, Denver Red Shield Corps Officer. “If that means they can get online here, when they can’t get online at home, then this is the place they can come to. And in the community, people know that this is a safe space for kids and they also know that they can get the help they need for school.” 

McKewen stressed that they will continue to grow the Lift Zone program and hopes to implement it into as many facilities as possible. 

“This program has so much potential to do good, just by allowing people access to the internet where they haven’t had it before,” she said. “I would love to see it…spread throughout the four states that we serve.” 

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Vivian Gatica Lopez

Vivian Gatica Lopez is a writer based in Colorado Springs, CO. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from California State University, Long Beach, and a passion for storytelling.