San Benito Health Foundation may be a small nonprofit but it’s got a big role in regional well-being: Since 1975, this MBEP member been providing a range of medical and dental services, from immunizations and breast-feeding counseling to health screenings and behavioral health services to San Benito County-area residents, regardless of ability to pay.

Now, the Hollister health clinic is about to celebrate a landmark transition: Its headquarters have just become California’s first 100 percent carbon-neutral, solar, fully sustainable and resilient healthcare facility. 

To make it happen, San Benito Health Foundation CEO Rosa Vivian Fernández formed partnerships with Greenpower, a division of Santa Cruz nonprofit the Romero Institute, and the Aromas Progressive Action League (APAL) to help manage her organization’s transition to become fully energy independent and resilient in case of a natural disaster.

“Access to quality healthcare becomes especially important during times of darkness, uncertainty or disaster,” said Fernández. “We have been preparing for the eventuality that disasters could cut us off from the grid for days, maybe weeks, by taking all the necessary steps to ensure we will be here for our patients, no matter what.”

Fernández had already decided to address sustainability but a visit to her home territory of Puerto Rico in 2017 — where she saw the aftermath of Hurricane Maria — inspired her to further address disaster resilience. “I saw families devastated and without access to basic services and needs. I told myself I would never let that happen to the people who depend on SBHF. I also wanted to find a way for my organization to have a positive impact for our climate,” Fernández said.

Over the past year, new solar panels, retrofitted lighting, an ultra-efficient HVAC system, and a bioethanol generator have turned San Benito Health Foundation into the first clinic in California powered by its microgrid.

“It’s exciting and we hope that this will serve as a model for other community health centers throughout the region, throughout the state and nationally,” said Fernández. “And to those communities in Puerto Rico that are still struggling through power outages.”

The community celebrated these important improvements to regional well-being with an open house and ribbon-cutting on Wednesday, Aug. 14 featuring special guest Congressmember Jimmy Panetta and community leaders. The event included guided tours of the newly renovated health center, food, entertainment and activities for all ages. The health center will also host a Community Open House from 3-7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16 as part of National Health Center Week, which recognizes the contributions of community, migrant, homeless and public housing centers in promoting health and prevention. chance to learn more about the many services and programs available. Learn more