Lifting the Energy Burden: The SafeCenter Case Study

The rising cost of energy has become a pressing issue for many nonprofit organizations across the country. In Shiawassee County, Michigan, MEO and Elevate Energy have come together to offer assistance to nonprofits seeking energy efficiency improvements through the Nonprofit Capacity Building Energy Efficiency Program offered by the Cook Family Foundation.

One of the organizations that MEO and Elevate worked with is the SafeCenter, a nonprofit organization that provides comprehensive services to the victims of domestic and sexual violence in Clinton and Shiawassee Counties. The center consists of four shelter buildings, a garage, and a storage unit. These buildings require climate control 24/7, and on average, the SafeCenter was spending $1,000 per month for water and electricity.

MEO and Elevate assessed the SafeCenter’s buildings and provided a customized report highlighting the most cost-effective energy efficiency upgrades. The report included estimates of costs, savings, and payback times for the recommended upgrades.

With support from Elevate, MEO helped the SafeCenter find qualified contractors to conduct a major lighting fixture replacement. This replacement decreased the SafeCenter’s lighting consumption by 78%, resulting in significant savings on their energy bills.

By partnering with MEO and Elevate, the SafeCenter was able to make important upgrades that not only reduced their energy costs but also helped them become more environmentally sustainable. This program has shown that with a little help, nonprofits can make a significant impact on their energy usage and overall cost savings.


Free White Light Bulb On Yellow Surface Stock Photo

Clara Guggemos

Community Energy Specialist

Clara joined MEO in August 2021 and currently works as the Community Energy Specialist for the Lansing Board of Water & Light’s Hometown Energy Savers program. Clara is pursuing degrees in energy management and building construction through the Lansing Community College Alternative Energy Program. In their free time, Clara enjoys embroidering, mountain biking, and kayaking.

Jen Tucker
Senior Community Development Manger Michigan Economic Development Corporation

Jen serves the Upper Peninsula as the Community Development Manager at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.  With over 12 years of experience working in community development in the UP, and over 19 years of experience as a snow shoveling resident of the region, she works to achieve Yooper status.  She is armed with experience working at the local, county and state level, and has enjoyed a wide variety of other professional opportunities including wildland firefighting, instructing earth science courses, fundraising, and event planning. Jen attended Northern Michigan University for Environmental Conservation and Eastern Michigan University for Urban and Regional Planning. Jen spends most of her free time outside in the Great Lakes State, playing with her dog Peete, watching football, and working on her house. Her passion for music and cooking keep her thinking creatively and trying new things in all aspects of her life.

Nick Occhipinti

Affairs Director
Michigan League of Conservation Voters

Nick Occhipinti is the State Government Affairs Director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.  Nick has a broad range of environmental policy experience having served as the Policy and Community Activism Director for the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC), worked as a staffer for the Chair of Hawaii’s State Senate Energy and Environment Committee, in Lansing for the Granholm administration, and at the Rocky Mountain Institute.  He has also worked directly in communities as a field organizer for the Obama campaign in 2008 and as a Corps Member for AmeriCorps’ National Civilian Community Corps. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan with a degree in Political Science and a Masters degree in Public Policy.

Abby Corso
Chief Program Officer Elevate Energy

Abigail is the Chief Strategy Officer at Elevate Energy, located in Chicago, Illinois. In this role, she oversees Elevate’s strategy in developing new programs nationwide from energy efficiency, solar, and planning including building up Elevate’s existing dynamic pricing and flagship multifamily building retrofit programs. Prior to this role, she served as Chief Program Officer and Director of New Market Initiatives, and was responsible for expanding Elevate’s affordable multifamily energy efficiency programs into new markets outside of the Chicago region including Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Oregon. Prior to joining Elevate Energy in 2012, Abigail was a Managing Director at the Delta Institute where she managed Delta’s sustainability consulting and industrial pollution prevention and energy efficiency program areas which included developing energy efficiency loan products for various Midwest initiatives.

Nathalie Osborn

Senior Energy Consultant

Nathalie Osborn is a natural energizer with a passion for inspiring efficiency, productivity, profitability and teamwork. She provides consultative sales, program management, and strategic business solutions and has assisted clients with implementing over $500M in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainability projects. As co-author of Ignite your Leadership: Proven Tools for Leaders to Energize Teams, Fuel Momentum & Accelerate Results, Nathalie also enjoys sharing keynote presentations, workshops and webinars on her chapter “Powering Personal Energy.”

Dr. Jessica Thompson
Associate Professor Northern Michigan University

Jes Thompson teaches courses in environmental communication and public relations. She is a trained facilitator and earned a graduate certificate in Adaptive Management of Environmental Systems at the University of Utah, where she earned an interdisciplinary doctoral degree in environmental communication. Her research is focused on communication about complex ecological issues, including climate change (check out her TEDx talk). Recent research projects include working with interdisciplinary teams studying climate resilience in Mongolia, ecosystem services in the Gulf of Mexico, and building communication capacity for climate change engagement at National Parks and USFWS Wildlife Refuges across the US.

Mary Ellen Mika

Director of Global Compliance and Sustainability
Steelcase Inc.

Mary Ellen Mika is Director of Global Compliance & Sustainability for Steelcase Inc., the global leader in the office furniture industry. She leads a team responsible for the company’s energy, renewable energy, and climate change response strategies including the development of science-based targets for greenhouse gas emissions; managing compliance with environmental regulatory requirements for products, facilities, and operations including implementation of the company’s ISO 14001 environmental management system and addressing environmental due diligence for potential acquisitions; pursuing product certifications for sustainability and indoor air quality; tracking and reporting waste, water, energy, recycling and composting efforts and setting goals for continuous improvement. Mary Ellen is a LEED-accredited professional and recently served on the Materials and Resources Technical Advisory Group for U.S. Green Building Council. She has a B.S. in Biochemistry, an M.A. in Counseling Psychology, and over thirty years of experience in environmental consulting and industry.

Michelle Jackson
Executive Director Sustainable Community Farms

Michelle Jackson is a fourth-generation farmer and the founder of Sustainable Community Farms. Michelle works hard on behalf of her community with the goal of uplifting the quality of life for those that live, work, and visit the neighborhoods. As the Executive Director of Sustainable Community Farms, she engages her community by organizing and presenting diverse platforms, for community members of all ages to participate in finding solutions to solving community issues. Michelle works collaboratively to transform the urban landscape diverse methods such as compost and compost systems. Michelle also has a passion for working on climate change issues, using her knowledge and expertise to introduce residents to the information needed to help them connect the dots between climate change and their everyday lives. Michelle’s work on climate change and urban farming has earned her an invitation to the White House to speak about Climate Change and its effects on small farmers. Michelle has also earned a seat on the Environmental Justice Work Group, appointed by Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of the 13th District.

Chuck Hookham
Executive Director of Program Management CMS Enterprises

Chuck Hookham serves as executive director of project management for CMS Energy’s non-regulated business and other roles and functions like the Storm team. He has over 40 years of international experience in the electric power and other heavy industrial sectors, involved with development, regulatory issues, strategic planning, engineering, construction, and operation of generation, transmission, distribution, and energy storage projects. He recently completed terms on the State of Michigan’s Board of Professional Engineers and American Society of Civil Engineers Board, and is active in many local, city, county, and state groups with clean energy, building codes, and sustainability impacts. His footprint is on many wind and solar projects in the USA, including the first wind/solar/battery hybrid project in Ohio, first microgrid in Michigan, and largest single-unit wind farm in Texas. A registered professional engineer, he enjoys scarce “free” time working on advancing Michigan clean energy/storage via his consulting engineering practice, climbing mountains, participating in many sports, and chasing grandkids. He attended the University of Illinois (engineering) and Eastern Michigan (MBA).

Kimberly Sterner

Program Support Specialist

Kimberly joined MEO in 2022 and currently serves as the Program Support Specialist. Kimberly is a graduate of Central Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology. Prior to joining MEO, she worked on programs that assisted low-income individuals in finding necessary local resources. In her free-time, Kim enjoys hiking, landscaping, and spending time around animals.

John A. Kinch, PhD
Executive Director

John A. Kinch, PhD, directs the strategic and daily operations of Michigan Energy Options emphasizing innovative and collaborative projects between the public and private sectors. Kinch is a US Department of Energy SunShot advisor and a municipal-certified solar expert by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. He has served on numerous nonprofit and governmental boards, including being chair of the City of East Lansing Commission on the Environment, a member of the Michigan Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards, a Vice President on the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association board and on advisory board for Highland Carbon. Kinch has volunteered at the Grand Rapids Community Food Club, among other social service organizations. He served as the inaugural “Executive in Residence” at Grand Valley State University’s Seidman College of Business in 2022 and continues to guest lecture and teach. He has most recently been appointed to the Grand Haven Sustainability and Energy Commission.

More about John at LinkedIn

Michael Larson
Assistant Director

Michael J. Larson oversees the daily operations of Michigan Energy Options and manages projects across the state. Michael’s duties include clean energy consulting, oversight of utility energy waste reduction programs, and leading MEO’s community engagement on energy issues in the U.P. Michael has a Master of Public Administration and has been working with MEO since 2011. He currently serves as a Commissioner for the City of Marquette and as a board member for Michigan Saves, a nonprofit green bank.

More about Michael at LinkedIn

Brandon Kawalec
Program Manager

Brandon Kawalec joined MEO in 2015 and currently manages the Lansing Board of Water & Light’s Hometown Energy Savers residential programs. Brandon is a Michigan State University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Agriscience. Brandon enjoys bicycling, tennis and golf in his free time.

Angela Marez

Program Manager

Angela joined MEO in 2021 and serves as a Program Manager for Energy Smart, Energy Optimization, and the Lansing Board of Water & Light’s Hometown Energy Savers. Prior to joining MEO, she served as a multi-family Property Manager with experience in tax-credit and low-income programs.  In her free time, Angela enjoys camping, gardening, and raising Monarch butterflies.

Lauren Chapman
Program Coordinator

Lauren joined MEO in May 2019 and currently serves as Program Coordinator for the Lansing Board of Water & Light’s (BWL) Hometown Energy Savers program. Lauren primarily runs the High Efficiency Products rebate program for both BWL and the Upper Peninsula’s Energy Innovations Collaborative program. In their free time, Lauren enjoys reading, board games, horror movies, and spending time outdoors.

Bob Tinker
Technical Energy Consultant

Bob Tinker is a long-time supporter of Michigan Energy Options and a technical consultant for our commercial energy services. Bob is a registered architect in the State of Michigan specializing in energy efficient building design, construction and operations—including the use of solar energy in buildings. He has been partner and president in two architectural firms over his career. Tinker Energy, Bob’s current business, provides commercial energy audits for government and utility programs. Bob maintains a daily yoga and meditation practice to keep his personal energy tuned and focused.

More about Bob at LinkedIn

Nicki Rossi

Program Support Specialist

Nicki joined MEO in October of 2022 and currently serves as the Program Support Specialist.  She feels her position is allowing her to give back in a small way to the community and the environment.  Nicki previously spent 14 years in Property Management as a Multi-Site Community Manager and then went on to work in senior home care, providing care and companionship to elderly clients.  She enjoys being up north with her family and two dogs.  Her northern home allows her to enjoy all that nature provides: bird watching, kayaking, leisurely walks on wooded trails, and, of course, lake life.

Todd Parker
Director of Programs Michigan Saves

Todd Parker is the customer service manager for Michigan Saves, a multimillion-dollar nonprofit organization managed by Public Sector Consultants whose mission is to stimulate and support investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy systems in homes, businesses, and public buildings. He assists homeowners and business owners, oversees a network of authorized contractors, supports new program development and operational management, evaluates and improves quality assurance efforts, and analyzes data on loan trends. Todd wants people to spend as little money as possible on energy, so that they can spend money on the things that truly matter – family, experiences, personal well-being. Todd is a proud alumnus of Michigan State University and the Vermont Law School.