Their surprised faces were beaming like the glow from a light bulb.
Then came the smiles, the hugs and the sincere thank-yous.
Two Highland Park residents’ days — and subsequently their nights — were made brighter after they and three other residents received free solar-powered lights as part of actor Mark Ruffalo’s 100% campaign to lighten homes, businesses and neighborhoods nationally.
“It’s gonna light the alley up. It’s pitch black out (there),” said Cindy Mondy, who moved into her home on Farrand Park more than a year ago with her family. “It really gives you a sense of safety and security.”
“I hope that everybody is able to get some solar lights … All of our houses need to be illuminated with solar lights … A little bit of light goes a long way.”
Mondy raised her hands in the air when she learned from Jackson Koeppel, executive director of Soulardarity — a nonprofit started in Highland Park after organizers said more than 1,000 of the city’s streetlights were repossessed by DTE Energy in 2011 — that she was going to receive a free solar-powered light, a $250 value. Mondy is a member of Soulardarity and previously bought a different kind of light for another area on her home.
Ali Dirul, engineering director, and Karanja Famodou, projects co-director with Ryter Cooperative Industries, quickly installed the light at the Mondy home and at the other locations, such as Nandi’s Knowledge Café & Books & More on Woodward, where 12-year owner Nandi Frye watched them work above the back door.
“Now, it’s not gonna cost me anything. It’s solar. It’s the sun,” Frye said.
When she saw Koeppel and the rectangular box for the light, she said excitedly: “Is that the solar light that goes in the back yard?”
Her suspicion was confirmed when Koeppel said they were honoring her with the motion-sensor lighting gift, saying: “Well, you deserve it.” He said Frye allowed Soulardarity to have its business address at her café, which has hosted events for the nonprofit.
A pastor, a military veteran and a community activist were the other three residents who were to receive the solar-powered lights, which are to last five to seven years, as a reward for their leadership on clean energy and their commitment to bringing light back to their dark communities.
The project was among the ONE100 Awards, which is a program designated to honor people across the country who are giving 100% to promote clean energy. Awards have been given out in Buffalo, N.Y., and San Bernardino, Calif., with more to be handed out in Atlanta in the fall, according to a news release.
Jon Wank, creative director of the Solutions Project, said the group granted funds for the lighting purchases and is documenting the lights being gifted and installed to spotlight the people and groups, such as Soulardarity, doing the work in their communities.
“Change is going to happen at this level, at the state, local, county level,” he said. “This is the start of something that could get huge.”