TVA Grant Boosts Connectivity in Orchard Knob Community

Residents of Chattanooga’s Orchard Knob neighborhood will soon benefit from several initiatives bolstering health and connectivity—thanks to a recently awarded $600,000 grant from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

The pilot program, titled “Connectivity and Health in Orchard Knob: A Smart Community Model for Equitable Access to Services for the 21st Century,” is one of nine programs granted a total of $3 million in funding through the TVA’s Connected Communities initiative.

Directed by the Orchard Knob Collaborative (OKC), the pilot will span two years, offering support to nearly 1,000 residents in the areas of: expanded public Wi-Fi, digital literacy training, digital resources, home weatherization and telehealth.

“We recognize that access to technology and other critical services is the foundation for success in the modern-day world,” said Joe Hoagland, Vice President, Innovation & Research at TVA, in a press release. “Our Connected Communities initiative will help close the equity gap in communities across our region, offering broad-ranging, innovative solutions that will continue to make life better for the people we serve.”

Formed in 2019, the OKC leverages the collective support of partner organizations —including Parkridge Health System, The Enterprise Center, EPB, green|spaces, and Habitat for Humanity — to tackle the whole picture of health and wellness in the historically underserved neighborhood. By addressing the equity gap in technological connectivity alongside that of social and environmental factors, the OKC aims to help deliver tangible improvements that residents can see on a daily basis.

“Digital literacy, access to Wi-Fi, smart devices, health, energy bills, transportation, environmental impact, social connectedness — these are all related in 2022,” said Geoff Millener, Chief Operating Officer at The Enterprise Center. “We hope this grant, tackling these things at an infrastructure level, will bridge some of the current divides.”

While the pilot’s focus may be the Orchard Knob neighborhood, Michael Walton, Executive Director of green|spaces, hopes the OKC model can help other neighborhoods with challenges related to health and opportunity.

“The TVA Connected Communities grant allows for a broad range of organizations to see whether a combination of aligned interventions can make measurable progress with those challenges so that we can expand them to all of the neighborhoods in the community,” he said.

Work through the pilot program is expected to begin this month, including continued work through the “Tech Goes Home” program.

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