On June 14, Gemeinschaft Home hosted an event to install a 25.0 kilowatts solar panel system on the main house and program building. A project spearheaded by Give Solar (http://give.solar), a local organization led by Jeff Heie, in collaboration with community partners, including general contractors and solar energy service Green Hill Solar (http://greenhillsolar.org), the “solar barn-raising” combined the efforts of community experts, volunteers, and Gemeinschaft Home residents to install the panels in one afternoon.
The project will enable Gemeinschaft Home to save about 80% of current energy costs (approximately $5,000 each year for up to 25 years) that can be used instead to support the organization’s programs and services. A significant part of Give Solar’s mission is to help fundraise for the project, with as little output of resources from the organization as possible, as well as to coordinate with professional contractors and solar energy experts to ensure the appropriate installation and maintenance of each system.
Over the last few years, Give Solar has provided solar panel installations for Eastern Mennonite University, Gift & Thrift, and Our Community Place (OCP) in Harrisonburg. Specifically, Give Solar seeks to help nonprofits in which those served by the organization can immediately benefit from the solar system installation. Because our program participants either live full-time or receive direct services at Gemeinschaft Home, the organization was selected by Give Solar as a project recipient.
The total cost of Gemeinschaft Home’s solar system installation was $32,310 ($1.29/kw). Starting with a grant from the Merck Foundation, Give Solar raised additional funds through large contributions from community sponsors, as well as small gifts from crowdfunding sources and in-kind donations, for a total amount of $25,009. While we ultimately fell short of the total fundraising goal, the energy savings that the organization will see over the next couple years will cover the difference, while still providing energy savings overall.
On July 19, Gemeinschaft Home hosted a formal ceremony to turn on the solar system—or “flip the switch”—and the electrical system of the house immediately began to make use of energy generated by the new system. We are proud of this project and ever grateful to the people who made it possible, from the generous contributors to the volunteers who gave their time, energy, and labor. Thank you for helping us to make our community stronger and better equipped to serve others.
Gemeinschaft Home's New Canine Friend
Animal companions are a source of comfort in our lives; people living with pets, who often greet them when they come home each day, have claims to lower blood pressure, less stress, and a near constant source of love and affection in their lives.
During their time at Gemeinschaft Home, residents are not allowed to own pets, but, fortunately, there is still a way for them to experience the benefits of interacting with one, thanks to a new opportunity generously provided by Kathryn (Kasia) Rathgeber and Judi, a therapy dog.
With a vivacious personality and a great smile (see photos), Judi exudes warmth and a clear sense of purpose when she arrives at Gemeinschaft Home, usually on Friday afternoons, which happens the instant Kasia puts on her therapy dog jacket.
Judi is a certified through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs—she is not a service dog—and provides emotional support and affection to anyone who encounters her. There is never a set agenda during her visits; instead, she trots from room to room, seeking interaction with people who in return give her lots of attention and cuddles. Judi always brings a positive vibe and leaves those she visits with a smile.
Residents have responded positively to Judi and ask about her when she has not visited for a little while. Her energy is contagious!