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HUNTINGTON — Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic last March, Facing Hunger Foodbank in Huntington has seen a 60% increase in the need for food support.

Dan Conant, founder and chief executive officer of Huntington-based Solar Holler, said when he was made aware of the increased need his company developed a donation campaign called “Solar For Suppers” to help.

“Through January and February, Solar Holler raised donations of $25 — or 225 meals — through the Facing Hunger Foodbank every time a central Appalachian homeowner or business completed a free solar assessment,” he said. “The response was more than we expected. Many of our customers rose to the challenge, spread the word and kept us busier than normal over the winter.”

The goal was to donate $4,000 or 36,000 meals, but on Tuesday Conant presented a check for $5,700 — or 51,300 meals — to the food bank.

“Every dollar donated helps us provide nine meals,” said Cyndi Kirkhart, chief executive officer of Facing Hunger Foodbank. “The economic fallout of COVID has meant our communities need more support to ensure every family can put food on the table. We were so happy to get the call from Solar Holler about partnering on this campaign. This donation comes at a much needed time.”

Holly Mount, who represents District 6 on Huntington City Council, also attended the ceremony.

“I think it’s really exciting to get to be a part of something that is not only helpful for our environment, but also something that is helpful for families in our area,” she said. “I am a mother and the thought of children going to bed hungry is heartbreaking.”

For nearly 40 years, the Facing Hunger Foodbank has been working to end hunger in the community. It currently serves 17 counties throughout West Virginia, southeast Ohio and eastern Kentucky, and it consistently delivers more than three million pounds of food annually, according to Kirkhart.

Conant added that Solar Holler’s mission has always been to make solar the most affordable source of energy for everyone across Appalachia.

“That includes homes, businesses and nonprofits. West Virginia has always been an energy state, and we want to continue that legacy. As someone who grew up here and loves this state, I wanted to make sure that we keep powering America for generations to come,” Conant said.

Since starting the business eight years ago, one of his main goals was to relentlessly pursue innovative approaches that bring solar within reach of the people and places who have always been left out.

“It no longer takes tens of thousands of dollars to install solar panels on a residential home or small business,” Conant said. “Everyone can own their own power system.”

Conant said in the beginning the company started working with nonprofit organizations across the state.

“We have been working with churches, libraries and social services organizations, including homeless shelters, across West Virginia to make solar affordable for them,” he said.

In 2018, Solar Holler completed a solar panel project in Huntington at Harmony House. The company installed 115 solar panels, which Harmony House officials called “a game-changing project” for the nonprofit organization that helps the homeless because it estimated the organization would save as much as $130,000 in electricity costs over 25 years.

In 2019, Solar Holler also did the largest nonprofit solar installation in West Virginia with the Habitat for Humanity ReStore project in Huntington.

The Habitat for Humanity of the Tri-State had 185 solar panels that generate 53.65 kilowatts of power installed. More panels were installed on the ReStore and administrative offices in the 200 block of 3rd Avenue. It was estimated the organization would save over $150,000 over the next 25 years.

Solar Holler has offices in Huntington and Shepherdstown. For more information, visit www.solarholler.com.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD or email him at fpace@hdmediallc.com.

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