Energy coop uses lantern workshops to bring families, communities together


Communities of Light Cooperative is a self-sufficiency, training and assessment organization whose first product is solar energy-related. In 2009 an organization named Communities of Light was formed by several Phillips Neighborhood residents, and in 2010 they began their Solar Lanterns and Solar Generators project/workshops due to great interest in helping to build healthier neighborhoods.

The workshops and training began and continue with a mission of building strong and trusting neighborhoods. The organization’s goal is to positively enhance the mental and physical health of those in the neighborhood by providing services that would help them meet some of their daily life challenges.

As a result of several earthquakes and other catastrophes, including the 2010 Haiti earthquake that destroyed entire towns and villages, taking approximately 22,000 lives, member of Communities of Light felt that a community group could grow strong while assisting others to heal and restore themselves to healthy living.

Communities of Light (COL) Executive Director Jim Cook looked for a neighborhood to illustrate the power of cultural wellness by strengthening their own creativity and ingenuity. As a cooperative, they could do a lot of positive good in their own backyard, the Phillips Neighborhood in South Minneapolis.

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Joined by cooperative members Dee Williams and Edgar Bey, COL began offering free workshops that focus on reaching out to and teaching youth and elders the importance of generational linkage and support, and that helping themselves gain the skills and knowledge needed to help others is a huge part of positive growth and community development.

Healthy living encompasses environmental resource preservation, and solar-powered generators preserve resources and the overall environment. Coop member Dee Williams stated, “The preservation of fuels, saving money and other resources — over and above that — Communities of Light is about bringing families and communities together. Our solar lantern workshop brings us together first of all, but it also helps to explain and teach…that when we look at the solar lanterns design, we see 20 triangle spheres, that each represents one family…

“We start to connect them, and [when we] put them together with wire — to where we connect two, then three, four and ultimately, all 20 — they [are an] example [of] how community is created and how we are all bound together to be supportive of one another.

Rebirthing Community was formed in 2010 as an extension of the Communities of Light Cooperative and soon became a member of the South Minneapolis Cultural Wellness Back Yard Initiative in partnership with Allina Health as a CHAT (Community Action Health Teams), whose goal and mission is to help improve communities’ mental and physical health by focusing on prevention.

The Rebirthing CHAT, initially entitled Youth & Elders, also has the mission of improving intergenerational communications among families and neighbors. Communities of Light Cooperative’s goal and mission is to develop a workforce capable of manufacturing, selling and installing items that assist and promote healthy and positive communities and opportunities for community self-sufficiency through employment opportunities. Attending a workshop with members of your immediate or extended family is a requirement to becoming a coop member. Workshops teach participants how to create solar lanterns.

For more information about the Communities of Light Cooperative, call 612-239-4652. The Communities of Light store is located in The Midtown Global Market on Chicago Avenue South and East Lake Street, in the old Sears building in South Minneapolis.

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