HALIFAX – A local group that helps at-risk young people develop leadership skills officially opened its solar-powered greenhouse on Wednesday.
“[The solar panels are] going to help Hope Blooms grow produce for the entire year,” said Holly Bond, vice-president of regional sales for Bullfrog Power, which provided the panels.
The facility, which runs fully off the grid, will allow the organization to more than double the amount of produce it can grow in its community garden; from 2,000 lbs, currently, to an expected 5,000.
Hope Blooms focuses on helping at-risk young people feel empowered, and learn new skills. There are over 50 other members, ranging between the ages of five to 17. The herbs they help grow get made into salad dressing, which is then sold.
Alvero Wiggins, the program coordinator, said one dollar of each jar sale goes into a scholarship fund; over $35,000 has been raised since the program start over half a decade ago.
The organization plans to expand the variety of herbs and produce it grows inside the greenhouse, and there are plans to start a salad program for local schools.
“It’s huge for Hope Blooms,” said Wiggins, regarding the new addition.
He said there is excitement as Hope Blooms enters a new chapter in its history. The award-winning program has since expanded to include a storefront on Cornwallis Street.
“To see this greenhouse in the morning, to water plants, to see the solar array, the process of it being installed to being complete, to see the inside with the batteries and the converter for the energy. It’s a dream come true. It’s unbelievable some days,” Wiggins said.
He added that it’s important for Hope Blooms to be a leader when it comes to being green.
“To see that unique piece of eco-friendly technology, to see it installed here in our community, as a piece of our community, as a permanent piece of our community, it’s huge,” Wiggins said.
Phoenix Christmas, 15, became a member of the group when he was 10.
“To me, it’s amazing just growing the food and being part of this,” he said. “When I was 10, I was in a little bubble, but, when I got here, I think that helped me open up a little bit more.”