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Bar Mitzvah Project Helps Lighten Load for Local Charity

As featured on Newsworks, WHYY Radio

Ari Bortman, son of Yardley-based Exact Solar owner, Mark Bortman, decided to combine his passion for solar energy and his long-time commitment to a local charity when he decided on his bar mitzvah project.

Ari and his family have been volunteering for an amazing non-profit organization in northeast Philadelphia called the Jewish Relief Agency (JRA) for years.  Each month, the JRA’s volunteers fill over 3000 boxes with food staples (stuff like boxes of pasta or cereal, cans of vegetables or tuna, and sometime bags of produce like potatoes or carrots) and deliver them to needy people all over the Greater Philadelphia area.  Most of the people receiving the boxes are elderly immigrants who don’t speak English.  A full 98% of the JRA’s food recipients live under the poverty level, most on less than $680 each month.  They need the boxes to be able to put food on their tables each day.  You can find out more about the JRA at their website if you’re interested.

Because the local charity and what it does means so much to him, and because he also enjoys helping his father install solar energy systems when he can (his father is owner of Yardley-based solar energy system installer, Exact Solar), Ari decided to combine these two passions for his bar mitzvah project.  He raised money to put a solar photovoltaic system  (solar panels) on the roof of the JRA’s northeast Philadelphia warehouse (off Roosevelt Blvd near Comly Ave).  He started asking for donations from friends and family over a year ago, giving a speech about his project in front of his entire congregation at last year’s Yom Kippur services.  In the meantime, he also applied for and won a $5,000 grant from Nickelodeon through their Big Green Help grant program.  In total, he raised about $7000 for the project.  Ari and his father installed the panels for free (donating the labor).  They were also able to convince a solar panel manufacturer to discount the panels for the project and a rack company to discount the racks since the project is benefiting a non-profit organization.  In the end, the JRA is receiving a 16-panel solar PV system (3.36kW) at no cost to them.  This is a relatively small system, but it will cut their electric bills in half each month, allowing them to spend more of their budget on food for the ever-increasing numbers of needy Philadelphians that request help from them each month. It is truly a gift that keeps on giving. And, in the future, if others want to donate more to pay for additional solar panels, the system is easily expandable to produce more electricity.

Ari was interviewed about his project by WHYY’s Dave Heller for the NewsWorks Tonight program.

Ari would like to thank everyone who made this project possible.  A special thank you goes to Exact Solar, Delaware Valley Lift Truck, Siliken, Renusol, Nickelodeon’s Big Green Help program, the Kehillat Shalom community, and his family and friends.

Exact Solar is dedicated to helping local charity, non-profit and community organizations save energy and money and move toward renewable energy options.  Contact Exact Solar at (267) 825-0918 or via e-mail at [email protected] if you’d like more information or if you think your organization would benefit from going solar.

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