• 81°

Ark Refuge Ministries celebrates new solar panels with ribbon-cutting ceremony

Cole Trahan
The LaGrange Daily News

On Thursday morning, community members and project leaders gathered at Ark Refuge Ministries for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the non-profit’s new solar panels.

The installation resulted from a collaboration between Ark Refuge Ministries and three other organizations — Groundswell, Solar Tyme USA, and The Solutions Project.

“We’re a nonprofit, and our mission is building community power,” said Groundswell CEO Michelle Moore. “And we implement the SOUL program [to] save on utilities long-term here in collaboration with the city of LaGrange … We were very grateful to work with Jonnell Minefee of Solar Tyme.”

The Solutions Project funded the installation. According to Groundswell’s website, The Solutions Project is “a national nonprofit organization that seeks to accelerate the transition to 100% clean energy and equitable access to healthy air, water, and soils by supporting climate justice organizations, in partnership with Groundswell.”

Moore explained that the solar panels will help Ark Refuge Ministries save money to put back into its mission.

“And it’s also a great way to support local business — local black-women-owned business — and just demonstrate how the community of LaGrange and the community of Calumet can benefit from a clean energy future,” Moore said.

Around 11:30 a.m., everyone walked to a side of the building where the new panels were visible on the roof. Most of them posed behind the ceremonial ribbon for a photoshoot. Ark Refuge CEO and cofounder Yvonne Lopez snipped it with a giant pair of scissors.

“I don’t think that Groundswell gets enough credit,” said City of LaGrange Council Member Nathan Gaskin during a brief speech. “I don’t think that Ark Refuge Ministry gets enough credit, and I don’t think the city of LaGrange gets enough credit for how we’re inspiring generations to come … to think outside the box, to work together, and to create a better, more sustainable society.”

LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton recalled being on a call with Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols.

“He knows about the work of Groundswell,” Thornton said. “He knows about the important work that we’re doing around sustainability here in LaGrange and along the Ray Highway, etcetera. And I was able to share with him that I was coming today to do this installation. He was very excited about that. So the next time he gets down to LaGrange, maybe it’ll be an opportunity for me to bring Commissioner Echols by to see the installation …”

According to Lopez, Ark Refuge Ministries mainly helps men who are homeless, struggling with substance abuse, or coming out of incarceration.

“We provide a safe, holistic place for them to transition their lives and get back on the right track,” she explained.

“We provide housing, transportation, we find them jobs … it’s a Christ-centered ministry, so we have a lot of Bible study.”

The organization also participates in community projects for the elderly and serves daily hot lunches to homeless men, women and children.

Additionally, it recently started a mental health program in partnership with Pathways.

Lopez said Ark Refuge Ministries has been in the community for over 30 years.

“My husband started it over 30 years ago. He died six years ago, and I’ve been carrying it on.”