Castle in the Sun

Supporters of Just For Kids Advocacy Center participate in the ribbon-cutting for the center’s new solar panel installation. Photo by Dan Radmacher

By Dan Radmacher

“Kids look at it, and they see a castle,” says Scott Miller, executive director of Just For Kids Child Advocacy Center, about the nonprofit organization’s new Beckley, West Virginia, headquarters. That castle is now solar-powered by a 14-panel ground array, which was unveiled in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 25.

Children who visit the Just For Kids headquarters in Beckley, W.Va., often say it looks like a castle. Photo by Dan Radmacher

The unveiling ceremony was held to honor those who helped bring the project to fruition — including the organization’s board of directors, donors and the Appalachian Solar Finance Fund — and to spread awareness about solar energy and the new opportunities for small businesses and nonprofits to take advantage of it, according to Miller.

“The cost of [this project] was $27,000 or $28,000,” Miller said at the event. He explained that after tax credit equivalents made available through the Inflation Reduction Act, donations and grants, “The cost for Just for Kids was $500.”

The Solar Finance Fund — which is administered by Appalachian Voices, the nonprofit organization that publishes The Appalachian Voice — helped the center receive a $6,730 sub-award from a federal Appalachian Regional Commission grant and a $10,000 bridge loan from Invest Appalachia.

The Just For Kids Advocacy Center headquarters are in a former bed-and-breakfast situated not far from downtown Beckley. It’s a much less stressful setting for the children the nonprofit serves than the office space in a bank building they previously used.

The center provides a place for children who may have been sexually abused to share their experiences with forensic interviewers in a non-threatening environment. The interviews are recorded so the children only have to tell the story once, reducing their trauma. The center also provides counseling and family support services.

“The trauma that children experience when they’re abused is so intense that it’s hard for them to tell their stories,” Miller told reporters at the event. “But if they come here, they’re coming to a home. They’re not coming to a police station or child protective services. They feel more comfortable. We have a playground. We have lots of toys inside. Every child that comes through that door starts playing when they come.”

The new solar array at the Just For Kids Advocacy Center headquarters “will give us all of our electricity for at least 20 years with no cost to us,” said Scott Miller, the organization’s executive director. Photo by Dan Radmacher

The solar installation will help the organization lower costs. “This will give us all of our electricity for at least 20 years with no cost to us,” Miller said. “It’s a net-zero project, so it doesn’t produce all our electricity all of the time, but it produces more electricity than we need for much of the time.”

Miller singled out area residents Joe Golden and Peggy Burkhart for their support, including a donation that helped jumpstart the project. The couple had put solar on their farm and their home, and knew the benefits.

“We thought this would be good for Just For Kids and a good model for the community,” Golden says. “It will be really beneficial both in the short and long term.”


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