A Paradise Veteran's Resilient Spirit

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November 10, 2021
Helen smiles in front of her new solar panel ground mounted system with GRID staff Angelo and Manuel who are holding a large GRID banner in between them, blue sky and trees surrounding them.

Helen Nabben is a 91-year-old Paradise resident, Navy veteran, Camp Fire survivor, and a recent GRID solar client through our Disaster Recovery Initiative. She’s also a community volunteer, a self-taught musician, and a lover of animals. When the Camp Fire came, all she could do was escape her home with “the clothes on her back” and her two dogs, cats, and her bird.

A resident of Paradise since 1984, Helen came to California from New Jersey for her Navy postings. She moved to Paradise from the Bay Area when she retired, after falling in love with the tranquility, people, and natural surroundings of the area. Before the fire, Helen was a staple at Paradise care homes, where she would regularly play music for the residents. Even now at 91, Helen still finds ways to help her friends, neighbors, and community. 

The VA was her first stop after being rescued from the fire to receive medical treatment and shelter. “Thank God I had the veterans,” she said of that time. 

Her journey since the fire has not been an easy one. Like so many other wildfire survivors without home insurance and on a fixed income, Helen struggled to find affordable housing after the fire. She even encountered rent gouging before she was able to get connected with the Camp Fire Collaborative, who helped her receive a new manufactured home to replace the one she lost in the fire.

Helen was able to move into her new home on her old plot of land in May of 2021, finally ending her odyssey of patchwork housing arrangements. Enter GRID Alternatives Senior Outreach Coordinator, Dan Beveridge, who connected with Helen through the Camp Fire Collaborative to help Helen lower her energy bill through GRID Alternatives’ no-cost solar energy installations. 

She told Dan when he first contacted her, “Well I don’t know too much about solar, but it would be wonderful because I have nothing. I only have the clothes on my back. It would be a blessing to get this.”

Helen lives only a few minutes' walk away from another GRID solar client, and when Dan realized this, he made sure to introduce the two. When they met, they instantly bonded over their mutual love of wildlife.

Helen is most looking forward to using her solar savings to beautify her home’s surroundings for the wildlife that is slowly coming back to Paradise. “They're God’s creatures too. And God took care of me, so I'm helping him take care of his own animals.” Watch this 1.5-minute video to hear a little more from Helen herself!

Three years after the Camp Fire, many survivors are still dealing with trauma, housing insecurity, and other ramifications from the fire. At GRID Alternatives North Valley, the Camp Fire personally impacted many of our staff and clients - prompting us to launch our Disaster Recovery Initiative in 2019 to contribute to rebuilding more resilient communities through access to clean energy technology. You can help us continue to reach more wildfire survivors like Helen with energy savings and climate resilience by donating to GRID Alternatives North Valley and sharing this story.