Lighting up Highland Park with light installations powered by the sun

A military veteran, a pastor, a mother, a business owner and a community organizer each received a big surprise yesterday, April 23rd: a solar-powered light installed on their home or business, to thank them for their clean energy leadership.
“What a wonderful surprise — and something our neighborhood needs,” said Lucy Frye, better known in the community as “Nandi.” She is the owner of Nandi’s Knowledge Café in Highland Park, a Michigan city surrounded by Detroit. “Our families and businesses thrive when we have safe streets and community spaces. For my business, this solar light will make a real difference.”
Frye was recognized for her work with the Highland Park nonprofit Soulardarity, which local residents formed after the utility DT Energy repossessed more than 1,000 of the community’s streetlights in 2011 because of increasing energy costs. The non-profit is now working to raise money – both through a crowdfunding campaign and city government collaborations – to replace all of the original lights. This approach is expected to save the city $3 million.
“The loss of our streetlights plunged virtually every street in Highland Park into darkness. People were afraid to go out at night,” said Bridgett Townsend, board president of Soulardarity and lifelong Highland Parker. “But thanks to these amazing people, we are building a homegrown collective that is lighting up the night with solar-powered lights owned and controlled by the community, and independent of any utility.”
The solar-powered lights presented on Sunday were part of the 100 percent campaign’s One100 Awards, which are designed to honor individuals across the country who are giving their 100 percent to promote clean energy. So far, awards have already been given to individuals in Buffalo, New York and San Bernardino, California. The 100 percent campaign is part of the national non-profit The Solutions Project founded by the actor Mark Ruffalo and dedicated to making clean energy more accessible and affordable for everyone.
“Organizations like Soulardarity are showing what’s possible when communities bring together bold innovation and deep caring,” said Sarah Shanley Hope, The Solutions Project’s executive director. “Clean energy is a breakthrough technology, but it’s when we combine it with human energy and political power that we really see lives improving.”
Highland Park residents agree.
“Solar lights are making our neighborhoods safer, but they are also doing more than that,” said Paul Bond, a military veteran who received a One100 Award and was honored with a surprise solar light on his home. “We need jobs and opportunities in clean energy for veterans and other people who live here. Soulardarity is an on-ramp for people right here in our community to become leaders in clean energy.”
In addition to Frye and Bond, three other Soulardarity activists received One100 Awards and were recognized with solar-powered light installations. They are; Rick Smith, assistant pastor at the Prayer Temple of Love; Phillis Judkins, North End community activist; Cindy Mondy, mother of six children ranging in age from three to 15.
“We’re extremely thankful to the 100 percent campaign for recognizing our hard work and for this generous award,” said Townsend. “You don’t start something like this to get national recognition, but we hope to inspire other communities and show them that it is possible to do something good for people and the clean energy economy.”


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