The Rocket Mortgage Classic, in partnership with its title sponsor Rocket Mortgage, today unveiled its new “Changing the Course” initiative – a multi-year campaign to provide every Detroit resident with internet access, technology, and digital literacy training within five years.
The Rocket Giving Fund, the 501(c)3 that organizes and presents the PGA Tour tournament at the Detroit Golf Club, will invest funds in organizations and infrastructure that seek to ensure 5G internet technology becomes available across Detroit.
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 second Rocket Mortgage Classic, originally scheduled to be played May 25-31 at the Detroit Golf Club, has been rescheduled to July 2-5, 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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,” says 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 (with more than 100,000 households) in America, with nearly 30 percent of its homes without broadband of any type.
What once was considered digital currency reserved for the elite and early adopters today is the root essential need to survive and thrive in our modern economy, Farner says. 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.
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,” says 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. It also won three “Best Of” awards in its inaugural year from the PGA Tour, including the “Fair Way Award” for its diversity and inclusion initiatives, making it the most-awarded event on the tour.
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 site 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.
According to Farner, “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,” which aims to provide all enrolled Detroit Public School 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 families that need it. The Quicken Loans Community Fund also has 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.