Connecting for Good (CFG) was created by Rick Deane and Michael Liimatta as a response to Google Fiber’s announcement to make Kansas City its first gigabit fiber city. Our objective was to provide internet connectivity for low-income communities throughout Kansas City’s urban core. Two key phrases were kept in mind while building CFG: Connectivity equals opportunity and education is the key out of poverty.
On Nov. 17, CFG received their 501(c)(3) designation, which today is celebrated as our anniversary. A board was assembled to fuel strategic planning and set future goals for CFG. On Dec. 14, less than a month after being certified, Rick Deane installed our nonprofit’s first free Wi-Fi network in Rosedale Ridge, Kansas, bringing internet services to nearly 400 residents.
CFG formed a partnership with the Kansas City, Kansas (KCK) Housing Authority to bring internet service to Juniper Gardens, a public housing project. In July, CFG opened a Missouri location on Troost Avenue, which enabled the expansion of services to include Computer Refurbishing and Digital Literacy Training. Previous to this, most refurbishing was done in Rick’s garage and the donated computers were stored in multiple local residents’ garages around town. While grateful for the support from the community, CFG was excited to expand their space, as well as their mission. A new three-pronged strategy was created which focused on Connectivity, Hardware and Digital Literacy Training. These three goals help to bring and build, a community that is inclusive in a world where access to the internet is becoming essential and necessary.
Through partnership with the KCK Housing Authority, CFG opened a second facility, the Northeast Wyandotte County Community Technology Center, at 2006 N 3rd Street in Kansas City, KS. The center opened with 20 public computer workstations, and regularly scheduled Digital Literacy classes. Connecting For Good became a founding member of the Kansas City Coalition for Digital Inclusion along with the Kansas City Public Library, Literacy KC, KC Digital Drive, and the City of Kansas City, MO. By this time, CFG had trained over 2,000 urban core residents, and sold over 1,000 affordable computer devices to low-income families for as low as $50.
With increased demand for CFG’s services and in order to serve residents east of the Troost Avenue divide, we moved our Missouri location to the beautifully restored Linwood Area Ministry Place (LAMP) at 3210 Michigan Avenue on Nov. 15. At this same time, Michael Liimatta left Connecting For Good to become the inaugural manager of HUD’s ConnectHome initiative in Washington, D.C. LAMP gained Carol Meyers, facility manager, who has become vital to the newly expanded nonprofit.
Former Hallmark Executive, Tom Esselman, was hired as CEO in January. Under Esselman’s leadership, CFG shifted focus beyond Connectivity, Hardware and Training and towards an outcomes-based approach. Funding increased to support goals in Education, Employment, Economic Impact and the Environment. With more classes and training taking place on more sites, including Community Learning Centers throughout Kansas City, CFG trained 7,000 residents in 2016.
Thanks to a generous grant from the Hall Family Foundation, a total remodel of the LAMP Campus was completed in December, which resulted in a new computer lab. Less than six months at capacity, CFG couldn’t add another class. Because of Tom’s fundraising and community outreach, the LAMP Campus was able to double its square footage and triple the number of training seats.
*This is not an all-inclusive history, but is meant to show some of CFG's major events and overview of the organization.