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Community colleges donate medical supplies, install community WiFi, help small businesses survive COVID-19 pandemic

Community colleges across North Carolina have stepped up to help their communities and the state during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an unprecedented mobilization, colleges have donated ventilators and tens of thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment to local hospitals, EMS agencies and nursing homes. They have held supply drives, installed community WiFi in their parking lots and helped with efforts to feed schoolchildren and unemployed restaurant workers. Blue Ridge Community College served as a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site.

The colleges’ Small Business Center Network is helping local businesses stay afloat. Through webinars and one-on-one counseling, the centers have advised business owners on filing loan applications, negotiating with creditors, pursuing sources of support and handling marketing, online sales and supply chain management. The centers quickly moved their programs online to serve businesses struggling during the pandemic.

“Community colleges are living up their name during this difficult time for North Carolina,” said NC Community College System President Peter Hans. “We continue to deliver high-quality online instruction to our students and prepare our front-line health care and first responder workforce. But we are also serving our local communities, businesses and the state in so many other ways.”

Doctors, nurses and health care workers in North Carolina will be better equipped to handle a surge of COVID-19 patients with donated protective gear. Community colleges have gathered their supplies on-hand from nursing, health care and EMS programs to give to local hospitals and other facilities. The donations include gloves, face shields, gowns, medical-grade sanitizers and much-needed N95 respirators and surgical masks.

Stanly Community College in Albemarle donated four ventilators to Atrium Health Stanly, as well as personal protective equipment.

“We appreciate the great working relationship that Atrium Health Stanly has with Stanly Community College and feel very blessed to be able to donate the ventilators and other medical supplies,” said John Enamait, president of the college.

“We want to help our community, patients, and our Health Science graduates who are working to help battle COVID-19, to stay safe and healthy. It’s going to take everyone to do their part to help fight this disease.”

Besides contributing supplies, colleges are facilitating the vast shift to online learning. Robeson Community College created “The Learning Lot,” a drive-in WiFi area at the college, open to students and the public Monday-Saturday. The free WiFi lot is monitored by campus security.

Many colleges are serving the needs of the newly unemployed, offering low-cost, short-term online courses for those who need to retool for future jobs. South Piedmont Community College developed a series of short courses specifically for those affected by COVID-19. The $5 courses include how to homeschool children in math, how to update a resume and how to upgrade computer skills.

“North Carolina will have a long road ahead and community colleges will be key to the recovery,” Hans said.

To see a list of how community colleges are helping, go to

North Carolina’s 58 community colleges serve about 700,000 students a year in college-transfer programs, short-term workforce training, high school dual enrollment, career and technical education and adult basic education.


EdNC staff reporting relies on staff, interns, and columnists.