By: DEANNA JAMES, PRESIDENT & CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
(TEL) 340.773.9898, (EMAIL) staff@STXFOUNDATION.ORG
St. Croix, U.S.V.I. — St. Croix Foundation is pleased to announce the completion of the second phase of its Pilot Solar-Supported Community Center Project and Workforce Development Initiative with the solarization of the senior citizen housing center, Flambouyant Gardens, in November of 2020. This milestone is being memorialized at a presentation on April 14, 2021 with members of St. Croix Foundation Team and Flambouyant Gardens.
The solar initiative was formally launched in June 2019 and continues to build infrastructure around neighborhood resilience, energy independence, and food security. As a multi-layered resilience model, the Foundation graduated the Virgin Islands’ first cohort of local solar installers, providing workforce development opportunities in a field that nurtures energy independence for St. Croix. As part of the students’ on-the-job training, the Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls of the Virgin Islands and, most recently, Flambouyant Gardens Senior Independent Living Center were both solarized and will serve as resilience hubs that fortify neighboring communities in times of crisis. Funded in partnership with the VI Department of Labor, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, GlobalGiving and several local partners, this project is a model of cross-sector collaboration that builds economic, energy, and community resilience through workforce development, energy independence and strategic, innovative grantmaking for nonprofit capacity building.
During the first phase of the Project, 9 students aged 18-28, successfully completed a 6-month course through the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) and received intense classroom instruction in NCCER Core Curriculum, Electrical Levels 1-4, and Solar PV Installation. As of June 2020, 100% of the cohort was fully employed in the field and by October, two participants had been promoted to Team Lead, while one is training to specialize in Tesla power walls. At the conclusion of the classroom component of this program, students received on-the-job training installing Solar Photovoltaic Systems by completing the installation of a full solar system on the roof of the Caribbean Center for the Boys and Girls of the Virgin Islands (CCBGVI).In November of 2020, the second center, Flambouyant Gardens, home to 56 senior citizens, was also solarized through this innovative and holistic approach to community development. The solar systems build capacity in targeted community centers serving children, families, and the elderly. Today, the CCBGVI enjoys energy independence and utility savings of up to 40%, and Flambouyant Gardens has received over $500 in savings, thus far.
In testimony to St. Croix Foundation’s commitment to local nonprofits, the initiative is nurturing a culture of resilience by empowering nonprofits to achieve a reduction in utility costs, the savings from which can be reinvested in direct services that benefit the communities and vulnerable populations they serve. In total, the solar system grants provided by the Foundation are benefitting over 160 youth and elderly every day.
“We are grateful for the collaboration of St. Croix Foundation in the solarization of the Flambouyant Gardens senior community center,” stated Junia John-Straker, Chief Executive Officer for Lutheran Social Services of the Virgin Islands. “It is an opportunity for LSSVI to reinforce our social service support to the community and make Flambouyant Gardens a resilient hub during disasters. Having solar means we can provide reliable power for low-income seniors during power outages — helping them keep communication lines open, store their medication safely and maintain access to information available to them,” John-Straker continued.
In addition to the benefits during blue skies, in the event of future disasters, all selected solar-powered community centers have committed to serving as neighborhood hubs for individuals and families in walking proximity. CCBGVI and Flambouyant Gardens will enable residents in the neighborhood to store medication that requires refrigeration, charge electronic devices, and use an internet connection to communicate with family. Community centers will also have the capacity to serve as localized distribution sites from which aid and relief items can be stored and disseminated in the future. To increase the number of neighborhood resilience hubs, St. Croix Foundation has also begun the solarization phase for its Small Agribusiness Recovery and Revitalization Initiative, in which 7 farmers will receive solar systems for their Farm Tienda. Farm Tiendas are eco-friendly container stores that SCF granted to farmers and outfitted with potable water systems, and now a solar PV system.
This will give farmers off-grid energy and connectivity to process payments, provide lighting and cameras for security, refrigeration for produce, and a small fan. Each farmer has pledged (and already begun during Covid-19) to serve as resilience hubs for their communities.
According to St. Croix Foundation President, Deanna James, “These initiatives represent model case studies on the power of place-based philanthropy and St. Croix Foundation’s philosophy and multi-pronged approach to philanthropy: catalyze holistic community development that builds capacity in nonprofits, leverages cross-sector collaboration, and directs resources at the intersections of complex social-economic challenges facing marginalized communities.”
The Foundation is deeply grateful for all its community partners for their support and collaboration in making this project a reality including the Department of Labor, Commissioner Gary Molloy and his Team on the Workforce Development Board, Sustainable System and Design International, Lions Den, and course instructors Ian Caesar, Kevin Dubois, Jensen Berkitt, Gregory Christian, and Sana Joseph. For more information, please feel free to contact the Foundation at 340-773-9898 or visit their website www.stxfoundation.org for more information about the Initiative or to support this and other St. Croix Foundation initiatives.
ABOUT ST. CROIX FOUNDATION
Established in 1990, the Foundation has served as a conduit for over 42 million dollars in funding for community-based projects throughout the Virgin Islands. With an incomparable track record of successful community development initiatives and national recognition for its work in education reform and small business development, the Foundation has also received international acknowledgment for its community revitalization initiatives and, today, continues directing its focus on energy independence, workforce development, education, youth and families, and of course, the broad-based support of nonprofits, including fiscal sponsorship, grantmaking, and the Nonprofit Consortium.