Sunshine and hope for Sandy survivors

By Krista Van Tassel
July 17th, 2014
Wanda Saez

Wanda Saez

Please join me in welcoming Wells Fargo’s New Jersey Community Development Officer Wanda Saez to the Environmental Forum. I had the pleasure of working with Wanda to organize a solar installation in the Asbury Park shore community in New Jersey when nonprofit GRID Alternatives expanded its services to New Jersey and New York last year with the help of a $2 million Wells Fargo expansion grant. As a result of our collaboration with Wanda and GRID Alternatives, our Wells Fargo team members last year successfully installed solar power in the homes of two deserving families hit hard by 2012’s Hurricane Sandy.  (KVT)

Last October, Jolyn Bright looked up at her roof in Asbury Park, NJ to see a team of employee volunteers from Wells Fargo’s Green Team installing the first-ever GRID Alternatives solar energy system on the Eastern seaboard. That day, it was just under a year ago that a tree during Hurricane Sandy came crashing through the roof of Jolyn’s rented home, leaving her, like so many others along the coast, homeless. She and her husband Warren went to stay with her mother while the house was being fixed, but when they returned it was full of mold. Instead of fixing it, their landlord suggested that they move to a new location.

Soon after, though, their luck turned, and they got the opportunity to buy their own home through Affordable Housing Alliance (AHA), a local housing nonprofit that Wells Fargo supports. When I heard that GRID was ready to come East, I was thrilled to be able to connect my friends at AHA to our friends at GRID. This helped forge a growing relationship that would ultimately help this community become more sustainable.

What makes my job so rewarding is having the knowledge that the solar energy system our team members installed last October with the help of GRID is expected to save the Brights about $350 in electrical bills in its first year. Jolyn never thought she would be able to have her own place, but she and Warren are now living in a beautiful sustainable home while saving energy and money.

The Bright’s home is one of seven that received solar power through GRID Alternative’s New York/New Jersey launch – two in Asbury Park, two in East New York and another three in Far Rockaway, an area that bore the brunt of the hurricane. GRID has continued to work with AHA by placing solar energy systems on more homes this past May.

Remembering the smile on Jolyn’s face that day makes me excited to get up each morning to see how my team and I can think of new and creative solutions to the challenges facing our communities.

If you have any good ideas on sustainable solutions, I would love to hear them. Please comment or reach out to us. In the meantime, enjoy this short video about our day in Asbury Park.

Tags:   financing   grant   grid   New Jersey   solar   
Krista Van Tassel

Krista Van Tassel

As Community and Team Member Engagement manager for Wells Fargo’s Environmental Affairs Team, Krista supports the company’s 70+ Green Teams, recognizing and promoting environmental innovator best practices, and engaging and educating team members about their role in helping the company’s sustainability efforts. She also manages Wells Fargo’s Environmental Solutions for Communities’ $3 million annual nonprofit grant program focused on helping make long-term sustainable economic investments in local communities where its customers and 264,000 team members work and live. Prior to joining Wells Fargo in 2009, Krista worked in a variety of sustainability and marketing positions in both the nonprofit and for profit sectors. Krista earned her MBA in International Business at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

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