Shiloh Baptist and Oasis of Hope leading the way
Shiloh Baptist Church has served as an anchor institution in the Black/African American community of Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood since 1953. The church is not simply a gathering place, it is a space for loving community, civic engagement and youth leadership. Shiloh’s congregation has played an important role in organizing campaigns for climate justice, and the church is a critical resource to many in need. Like other culturally and historically significant neighborhoods in the Pacific Northwest, Hilltop’s longtime residents are fighting to preserve the fabric of resources and social bonds cultivated over decades.
With planning and grant writing support from Spark Northwest’ Front & Centered and Sphere Solar Energy, Shiloh Baptist Church was awarded a $50,000 grant from Tacoma Power to install a 19kW solar energy system in 2021. This project showcased grassroots solutions to the impacts of climate change, while investing in facilities that are the backbone of the community.
After this successful installation, Spark Northwest learned that a neighboring organization, Oasis of Hope, was also interested in adding solar to their community center. Oasis of Hope is a spiritual, educational, and recreational resource for underserved youth and adults in the Hilltop community. Since 2005, the center has proudly served close to 70,000 people, assisting with counseling, childcare, funeral services, after school programs and much more.
Once we connected with Oasis of Hope Executive Director, Tim Thomas, a clean energy project came together quickly. Spark Northwest partnered again with Sphere Solar Energy, a Black-owned business, to design the project. We facilitated by pairing a utility grant with a matching grant from a local family foundation who were inspired by the Shiloh story. In the summer of 2022, the new installation went up, fully funded, and the community center began saving on their utility bills.
Far from being isolated investments, these two solar energy systems are a part of an overall plan to improve energy efficiency, environmental performance, and indoor air quality for the Black community in the Hilltop neighborhood. Savings from lower operating costs will be reinvested into the organizations’ missions of social justice, peace, and prosperity.