During our recently completed renovation, Catholic Community Services Foundation made strong headway toward our intention of creating a cleaner, greener campus. We have now completed two projects with grant funding partner Portland General Electric (PGE), who seeks to partner with Community Based Organizations (CBOs) in an effort to increase equitable access to clean energy initiatives.

Many communities who experience escalated adversity from the health and economic impact of climate change also experience few opportunities to participate in renewable energy projects. “PGE worked with CCS because of their inclusive work with all who seek services in the effort to mitigate climate change,” said Juliáe Riva, PGE Staff Product Specialist, Transportation Electrification.

Thanks to funding in 2022 from the PGE Renewable Development Fund (RDF) CCSF is generating energy through a solar array on the roof of the Bishop Steiner Building. The 29.3 kw array means that a clean energy source is now generating 15-20% of our headquarters’ electrical power, which CCS is redirecting into programs and services. Generation data is being tracked real time here.

In 2023, the PGE Drive Change Fund (DCF) awarded CCSF funding to provide the Fostering Hope Initiative (FHI) with an electric pickup to deliver goods and services in the community without impacting greenhouse gases. An onsite charger, also funded by PGE DCF, enables us to charge the vehicle onsite with energy from the solar array.

The new, battery-powered FHI pickup can now be seen in one of many capacities in our Northgate neighborhoods and surrounding service areas: transporting Community Health Workers (CHWs) or those we serve to facilitate in-person meetings; facilitating bulk or large item pickup from donors or delivering items to someone in need; or at the many outreach, educational and community events CHWs coordinate.

Transportation is the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon and a major source of other air pollutants. “For this reason,” says CCS CEO Joshua Graves, “a service EV is the perfect opportunity to be part of the difference and to widen the circle of engagement.”

The CCS commitment to environmental stewardship is rooted in one of the seven Catholic Social Teachings: Care for Creation and Stewardship of the Earth. In 2015, Pope Francis wrote Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, the first encyclical focused primarily on the environment:

“A true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. . . . Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.” (Pope Francis, On Care for Our Common Home [Laudato Si’],nos. 49, 91)

In conjunction with the two clean energy projects, CCSF created an interactive, educational display for the Seymour Center purposed with engaging our wide community. Via the theme ‘Many Hands Make Light Work,’ the sign explains both projects and illuminates to demonstrate the belief that every one of us must be part of the solution to climate change.

This belief is echoed by the sourcing of PGE funds. RDF funding is raised via Green Futures℠ customers who comprise the largest voluntary renewable energy program in the nation. These PGE customers elect to pay a fractional additional cost for clean energy resources. DCF funding is made possible through the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Clean Fuels Program (CFP). This program is funded by the sale of Oregon CFP credits, which PGE aggregates on behalf of residential customers who charge their electric vehicles at home.

CCS looks forward to connecting, educating and inspiring our community in working together to care for the earth and to care for each other.