Revisiting the San Benito Health Foundation

Leslie Austin, Climate Action Organizer

Date: 09/14/2022

It was an early morning in December 2017 when a colleague and I stood up to deliver a presentation to our local Rotary club. At the time, I had recently begun working with Greenpower, the predecessor to Let’s Green CA! And when I say early I mean it: it was 7am!

Our presentation focused on the benefits of solar energy and microgrid technology for municipalities. And once we completed our talk, Rosa Vivian Fernández, the president and CEO of the San Benito Health Foundation (and one of our local heroes) pulled me aside. She had recently returned to California from her native Puerto Rico, which had been devastated by Hurricane Maria. Take a look at this video:

Rosa Vivian shared with me that she saw people die in Puerto Rico not because they didn’t have medications or medical staff, but because they didn’t have energy. They didn’t even have access to gasoline to power back-up generators. After that experience, she had a vision of a healthcare facility powered by its own microgrid, so that in the event of a natural disaster or rolling blackout, medical services would continue. Over the next two years, our team partnered with SBHF, Mynt systems, and others to make Rosa Vivian’s vision a reality.

In 2019, the San Benito Health Foundation became the first health clinic in the state to be powered entirely by its own zero-carbon microgrid. Here are a few of my favorite photos from the ribbon-cutting event:

SBHF primarily serves low-income, farmworker and Spanish-speaking communities: communities who are impacted first and worst by the climate crisis. That’s why we’re so proud to have helped power this project. In the event of a crisis, this community not only has a health clinic to depend on, they have a community space to gather in.

Now, speaking of that beautiful community space, our team is “cooking up” a new project with SBHF. We’re planning a bilingual cooking demonstration in the SBHF’s all-electric kitchen to demonstrate the benefits of home electrification. Afterwards, we’ll connect community members with thousands in government incentive dollars to electrify their own homes. I’ll share more information as soon as I can.

Thank you for taking a moment to reminisce with me: in looking back, I’m reminded of all we can accomplish. Let’s keep it up!

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