BUFFALO, NY — Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Marcus Matthews saluted the Asbury Shalom Zone (ASZ) in Buffalo for taking a leap of faith and installing solar panels on its building.
“This was stepping out in faith,” Bishop Matthews said when he visited the Zone on Saturday, Oct. 8, to bless the solar panels. “You have put great faith in God that God would provide your cost for the panels and installation, and that God will provide the needed sunlight.”
Thanks to a $155,000 contribution from community partner Solar Liberty, an energy systems company, the solar panels were installed on the roof of the Asbury Shalom Zone building at 520 7th St. near downtown Buffalo. The company not only donated the panels, it also provided the labor to install them.
Asbury Shalom Zone’s main mission is to provide adult education for primarily non-English speaking adults, providing GED and computer classes. It also offers a soup kitchen, food pantry and thrift store, and hosts Cub/Boy Scouts and HIV/AIDS education and testing facilities.
Bishop Matthews thanked the ASZ for embracing a clean, renewable energy resource:
“What is even more exciting is that instead of benefitting the electric company, the resources saved by these solar panels can be directed toward the programs of the Zone, like your computer classes, soup kitchen and thrift store,” he said.
A shalom zone is an area within a community where churches work toward systemic change by collaborating with community organizations and residents to develop economic prosperity, coordinate resources, and empower leaders and residents to plan for their community’s future.
Asbury Shalom Zone was established in 1996 at the suggestion of a local church, Primera Iglesia Metodista Unida, which serves a neighborhood with a large population of refugees and immigrants.
One of the main challenges for ASZ is keeping maintenance costs low; its electricity bills hovered around $3,600 at month, hence the quest for alternative energy source. With the solar panels, ASZ expects to cut its energy bill in half, said Ben Matta, chair of the ASZ board.
Retired Rev. Merle Showers, ASZ volunteer director, thanked Solar Liberty officials for their contributions, and hailed them as a great example of a community partner.
“This solar installation will help us fulfill our mission by reducing our expenses, and allowing us to use our gifts from the churches and individuals to better serve the community,” Showers said.
The Upper New York Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
By Maidstone Mulenga