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New generator will provide power to emergency shelter at Chapel Hill Church

Community members celebrate the installation of a new emergency electric generator at Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church during a ribbon-cutting ceremony April 17 at the church.
Community members celebrate the installation of a new emergency electric generator at Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church during a ribbon-cutting ceremony April 17 at the church. Courtesy

Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church, in conjunction with the Puget Sound Energy Foundation, celebrated the installation of an emergency generator on April 17 that will provide power to the church’s emergency shelter in the event of natural catastrophes and power outages.

The Puget Sound Energy Foundation donated $50,000 to the purchase and installation of the natural-gas powered generator, and Chapel Hill provided a matching gift of $50,000. The city of Gig Harbor, Gig Harbor Rotary, Peninsula Light Company and other community members contributed the remaining $31,000.

Chapel Hill has served the Gig Harbor community as an emergency shelter facility since 2000, and the back-up generator project has been underway for more than 14 years. The church has beds to shelter 100 people (and can take additional numbers in severe disasters) in the event of an emergency, but until now the current facilities lacked backup electrical power to continue shelter operations and meal preparation during power outages.

According to Dr. Rev. Mark Toone, Chapel Hill’s emergency shelter designation represents the church’s commitment to serving community members in need, regardless of background, religious affiliation, or race.

“I actually think ‘shelter’ is a great job description for a church,” stated Toone during the dedication ceremony. “We ought to be a place of safety in times of danger and catastrophe. With this generator, that will be literally so.”

The Chapel Hill emergency shelter was most prominently activated following the 2006 Hanukkah Eve windstorm, when local communities experienced power outages lasting several weeks. The shelter opens more frequently as a warming or cooling center during extreme temperatures. During shelter activation, Chapel Hill partners with community organizations such as Gig Harbor Fire/Medic One, the city of Gig Harbor, Peninsula Light, Salvation Army, Gig Harbor CERT, FISH Foodbank, and many others.

Chapel Hill is one of several local churches in Pierce County’s disaster response network. Other shelter churches include Key Peninsula Lutheran Church, Fox Island Alliance Church, Key Peninsula Civic Center and Fox Island Church of Christ.

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