Rotary Food Bank Solar Panel installation complete!

The Crew:  The solar installation crew, comprised on Orangevale and Fair Oaks Rotarians and volunteers from Grid Alternatives (left to right):  Halley Kenyon, Dawn Abatemarco, Dennis Dunbar, Mike McKibbin, Bob Kurtz, Keith Walter, Alicia Sellers, Din Wiberg, Tyler Chandon, Gerry Ramirez

What started months ago with a Rotary Club member’s tour of the Orangevale Food Bank led to a volunteer project completed last week that will pay for half of the facility’s electricity bills for decades.

Rotarian Nick Broad said he was astonished during his food bank tour by the amount and quality of food made available to those in need. He also quickly envisioned how the Rotary Clubs of Orangevale and Fair Oaks could spearhead a solar panel installation project to help power the operation’s extensive refrigeration and freezer units that keep food fresh.

“He started putting it together in his head within minutes,” recalled food bank Executive Director Keith Wright, who in late February celebrated completion of the solar installation.

It’s nice to be able to help, Broad said modestly. “I saw the need and I knew who needed to come together to get it done,” he said. “They all came together fairly easily.”

“This project is unique,” said Wright. “I can get grants and people are okay with getting behind projects that are ‘one and done.’ But I can’t write grants to pay the bills and we cannot operate without paying the bills. This project is going to pay for half of our electricity costs for the next 25 years…helping us out in this way makes what we do possible.”

A 10.5-kilowatt array of solar panels was connected to the grid on Feb. 24 during a “Flip the Switch” ceremony attended by County Supervisor Sue Frost and many Rotarians and community members. “I was thrilled to find out that SMUD and Rotary teamed up to bring this amazing project to the Food Bank,” Frost said. “This will make it much easier for the food bank to focus on its core mission of providing food and resources to families in need.”

“We really enjoy helping out like this,” said Orangevale Rotary President Bobby Peno. “It’s good for the food bank, it’s good for the volunteers, and it’s really a nice thing to be involved with.”

The two Rotary Clubs, with matching funds from their national organization, raised $16,000 for the project, and SMUD provided another $10,000 to complete the funding. All installation labor was done by local Rotary members following directions from Grid Alternatives, a non-profit organization founded to assist other non-profits with alternative energy opportunities.

“This project is a great example of the community coming together to support an important cause,” said food bank founder and Orangevale Chamber of Commerce President Brad Squires.

The Orangevale Food Bank distributes food to over 400 families and 1,000 individuals per month, in many cases providing the only food available to its patrons and their children.

Written by: Kent Pollock