Cornerstones Community Partnerships has added a 21st-century element to its mission to preserve historic buildings and support traditional cultures. The nonprofit organization has created an initiative to install and maintain solar energy on tribal lands and in economically challenged northern New Mexico villages. The organization’s efforts include the training of youth, the unemployed and the underemployed. Cornerstones sees potential cost savings for individuals as well as their communities. Maureen Vosburgh, Cornerstones’ development director, said, “We are fully dedicated to our new slogan, ‘Partnering with Communities for a Sustainable Future.’ We plan to invest $250,000 in solar projects by the end of 2019.”
As an example of this, in partnership with Remy’s Good Day Fund, Cornerstones granted the Ribera Community Cultural Center in Ribera, New Mexico, funds to install 14 solar panels to provide hot water for radiant heat throughout the building. The solar thermal installation was completed in September.
In 1998, seeking to enrich the lives of San Miguel County residents, Los Pueblos Community Council envisioned repurposing the old Ribera School into a much-needed center for gatherings, art exhibits, classes and other activities. From 2000 to 2010, fundraising efforts brought in grants and private donations that covered the cost of demolishing portions of the school and Phase One of construction. Phase Two construction began in 2012, and with additional grants, interior and exterior projects were completed. In 2017, a commercial kitchen was installed, an important step toward self-sufficiency. The community center is now available for parties, meetings, weddings, funerals and other events.
Gloria Luz Gonzales, director of Los Pueblos Community Council, has been instrumental in the 10-year project. When funding for solar panels was offered by Cornerstones, she recognized its money-saving potential. “We decided to turn the installation of the solar panels into an educational opportunity for the community at large,” Gonzales said.