CINCINNATI — A highlight of the holiday season for Pastor Sil Watkins of New Beginnings Church of the Living God on Reading Road is giving out gifts to those in his community who need them.
Last year, roughly 200 area children received bicycles, but this year, amid a pandemic, the needs -- and who needs them -- have changed.
"Some people can't afford internet service," Watkins said. "We discovered with our elders ... you don't even have to be elderly to get depressed in this particular pandemic. But what we found out was that, with Facebook and social media, it kept them connected to the community. It kept them connected to their families."
That's why, instead of bicycles this year, Watkins and his church will hand out tablet devices to help families stay connected over the holiday season and in the months following as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt families coming together.
So far, the church community has pledged roughly 400 tablet donations. Many of those donations came from the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, while others came from individuals.
Cincinnati Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman chipped in. He told WCPO in a statement: "The digital divide is real. In a period of time that the last mile of connectivity remains a dream, all must do their part."
Watkins hopes to get the number of tablet devices donated up to 1,000 before the holiday season concludes.