Program sheds light on Highland Park activists

Lauren Abdel-Razzaq, The Detroit News

Resident Cindy Mondy’s garage wasn’t the only thing that was illuminated Sunday when a crew showed up to surprise her with a reward for her community activism. She couldn’t keep her smile from lighting up as well.

Ali Dirul, of Detroit, Ryter Cooperative Industries engineering director, prepares to install the solar-powered LED light on the garage to light up the alleyway.

Mark Ruffalo’s 100% campaign surprised Mondy and four other unsuspecting residents of Highland Park with solar-powered street lights to reward their leadership on clean energy and their 100 percent commitment to bringing light back to their community.

On Sunday morning, the Solutions Project and Soulardarity installed the LED light on Mondy’s garage to light up the alley adjacent to her home. And with an abandoned building just steps away, Mondy says she knows a little light will go a long way toward safety.

“We figure the best deterrent is to have some light there to let people know we can see you,” she said. “As people are going through the ally as it’s getting dark now things will be a little safer.”

The Soulardarity program has purchased solar lights in bulk so as to be able to offer them at a cheaper cost to residents of Highland Park. Aside from these lights that have been gifted to area residents, a cafe and a church, different models for different needs will be available for purchase for anywhere from $150 to $1,000, said Jackson Koeppel, Soulardarity's executive director. 

Koeppel says the organization is also in talks with the city to get them to fund 1,000 solar street lights. 

"We’re excited to see how these smaller efforts at the individual and block scale demonstrate the possibilities," said Koeppel. 

Mondy moved to the neighborhood well after the street lights were removed in 2011 because the city couldn’t pay the bills.

Back then, DTE Energy crews removed about 1,400 light poles from Highland Park as part of a settlement that allowed the city to avoid paying $4 million in unpaid bills going back several years. DTE replaced some lights on street corners but the neighborhoods remained mostly in the dark.

Mondy and other residents have been trying for years to get the city to make changes and light up the streets again.

The type of LED light Mondy received on Sunday costs about $250.

“Getting our power from solar energy, there is no bill attached to that,” said Mondy. “I can’t think of a more ‘winnable’ situation.”

The Solutions Project aims to transition 100% of U.S. citizens to 100% renewable energy. And that’s also important to the 51-year-old mother of three.

“I only have one address and that’s planet Earth," Mondy said.

For more information or to purchase one of the lights, visit or call 313-349-1063.