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Let there be lights at Hope Village

Thanks to the efforts of roughly two dozen volunteers, Hope Village residents transitioning out of homelessness in Medford now have another comfort of home.

On Saturday, about 20 members of Medford Rogue Rotary Club installed south-facing solar panels on the rooftops of the 15 “tiny duplex” homes at Hope Village, giving residents of each of the shedlike transitional housing units enough off-the-grid power to charge a small battery and light their homes with a pair of low-energy LED bulbs, according to Tim Chesley, who served as the volunteer project’s coordinator.

The 60-watt panels charge a battery pack that’s smaller than a stack of books inside each of the 30 units. According to Chesley, when fully charged the batteries are capable of powering a pair of low-energy LED light bulbs for about six to eight hours. Several USB ports on the side of the batteries mean the batteries can also be used to charge a mobile phone or small desktop-size fan.

For most people with the luxury of traditional power outlets in their home, it’s a trivial amount of power, but for at least one resident the project will mean real savings.

Brian Wortman, who’s lived at Hope Village since the beginning of March, estimates that he spent $20 to $40 per month on AAA batteries to power a small camping lantern he keeps inside the unit he shares with his wife.

“It cost a lot in batteries after a while,” Wortman said. “To have solar is a really nice thing.”

The shedlike structures on property owned by the city that’s leased to homeless outreach nonprofit Rogue Retreat, are built to be portable and have no plumbing or electricity.

Wortman enjoys living at Hope Village and having the aid of Rogue Retreat staff and counselors who “want to see people doin’ right.”

“You got people that care,” Wortman said. “It’s a good thing here.”

Electricity, however, has been a logistical hurdle for him.

To power electronics such as a DVD player so he and his wife can watch a movie at night, Wortman said he typically has to charge a portable battery jump starter at one of the shared power outlets in the complex’s common area. The building also contains the refrigerators and a television with antenna.

Leaving the portable battery unattended was one thing, but the shared outlet was also residents’ only place to charge their phones, meaning he’d have to sit near it while it charged to be sure it was safe.

Not only can residents now charge their phones under lock and key inside their homes, Chesley said that Rotarians also donated a new Datum Storage laptop charging station inside the common building.

Similar to a group mailbox, the heavy duty metal cabinet allows residents to lock their laptops and other electronics while charging.

The club voted earlier this year to make homeless outreach it’s highest priority, according to Chesley, and had been working since this summer on the project.

The adjustable brackets holding the solar panels were made locally by Medford Fabrication. The business’ owner, Bill Thorndike, is a member of the club.

Other parts of the project, such as the solar panels and two LED light bulbs in each unit — one for overhead lighting and another for nighttime reading — were sourced online.

Volunteers said they could feel the excitement this morning, and Chesley estimated that a dozen residents pitched-in, helping Roatarians install the projects.

For 10-year-old Medford homeschooler Gavin Guidotti, the project was a chance to help his grandfather, Rick Clark, install solar panels on the structures’ metal roofs.

“It’s really fun being up on the roof,” Guidotti said.

Clark said he was happy to do his part to help Hope Village, calling it “a great community project” and “a great way to go.”

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

Medford Rogue Rotary Club's Rick Clark and his grandson Gavin Guidotti attach solar panels on top of a tiny house inside Hope Village Saturday.{ }Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune