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Rocket Mortgage Classic Unveils New Initiative Aimed at Providing Digital Access to Detroit

Photo Credit: Michigan Golf Journal

The Rocket Mortgage Classic unveiled their new “Changing the Course” initiative – a multi-year campaign with a vision that every Detroit resident has access to the internet, technology, and digital literacy training they deserve within five years.

The COVID-19 pandemic shined a light on a number of unaddressed underlying issues in Detroit – internet accessibility being one of the most severe. The vision of “Changing the Course” is a Detroit where every resident has access to the technology, internet and digital literacy that is the baseline for education and opportunity in today’s economy.

The Rocket Giving Fund, the 501(c)3 that organizes and presents the tournament, will invest funds in organizations and infrastructure that seek to ensure 5G internet technology becomes available across Detroit.

“As we witnessed the heartbreaking toll that COVID-19 has had on our city, we knew we had to use the Rocket Mortgage Classic as a driver of lasting change,” said Jay Farner, CEO of Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. “In talking to leaders and partners throughout the city, the issue of internet accessibility always came back to the top. Kids are falling behind because they can’t get to school, parents cannot search for jobs, and families were unable to get needed telemedicine. Detroiters deserve better.

“Addressing this systemic, generational issue that Detroiters have been facing since the inception of the internet, is the kind of greater mission we targeted the moment we learned that the 2020 Rocket Mortgage Classic was moving forward. We thank our community partners and key leaders who have assisted us in honing our strategy to make a tangible impact for the better.”

This digital divide has never been more prominent than during the COVID-19 crisis, but Detroit has experienced challenges with digital access for decades. Detroit currently ranks as the least connected city (more than 100,000 households) in America, with nearly 30% of its homes without broadband of any type.

What once was considered digital currency reserved for the elite and early adopters is today the root essential need to survive and thrive in our modern economy. Lack of access reduces opportunities for education, housing, employment, health care and civic engagement that can so easily be taken for granted by people who have the ability to get online.

Several athletes including Larry Fitzgerald, Nate Burleson, Marvin Jones, Jr., and more helped promote the initiative with social media messages.

The Rocket Mortgage Classic serves as a launch-point to help solve the digital divide. This includes being a vehicle for awareness, fundraising opportunities and creative problem-solving to address the needs of households who do not have access to broadband internet. In the coming weeks, details and a roadmap to accomplish this multi-year plan will be released to the public.

“When we announced the tournament’s new date, we said that we were flipping this event on its head,” said Jason Langwell, Executive Director of the Rocket Mortgage Classic. “Once out of the gate, our mindset for the 2020 event has been centered on how we can set the standard for how a PGA TOUR event can galvanize an entire community to assist at-need populations.”

In 2019, the Rocket Mortgage Classic raised more than $1.2 million in support of nonprofit organizations, with $1.1 million being directly invested in the city of Detroit.

Rocket Mortgage, and the affiliated companies that comprise the Rock Family of Companies, have been active in supporting the Detroit community since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, the Rock Family of Companies has directed more than $6 million through procurement initiatives, partnerships, philanthropic investments and logistical support in its hometown. Additionally, Rock Connections supports the City of Detroit’s COVID-19 testing near the Rocket Mortgage Classic’s venue by offering the services of its call center, and created the appointment software that serves up to 1,000 people per day.

Changing the Course is a continuation of the Rock Family of Companies’ commitment toward technological initiatives and digital innovation. The Quicken Loans Community Fund and Gilbert Family Foundation recently partnered with the Detroit Public Schools’ for the “Connected Futures Project,” aiming to provide all enrolled DPSCD students with tablets and internet access.

All technology used by the Rock Family of Companies gets recycled through Human IT, which redistributes it to Detroit organizations and family who needs it. The Quicken Loans Community Fund has also invested and provided skill-based volunteer opportunities for team members to help 100 small businesses stand up website or grow their online presence during the COVID-19 pandemic.