White Earth Nation

New lights at Naytahwaush Boxing Gym pack a punch

March 2023

Those left jabs and right hooks may be landing a little cleaner due to a lighting upgrade at the Naytahwaush Boxing Gym in the White Earth Nation in Northwest Minnesota. 

The gym is used as a community wellness center and the training facility for the White Earth Nation Boxing Team. The approximately 500 square foot building had been repurposed multiple times since it was originally built in the 1970s as a sewing factory, but the lighting remained inadequate.   

Enter Eugene Sommers.

Eugene was the boxing coach — and basketball coach — and his public service history included serving on various community advisory boards, as well as serving as the Chairman of the White Earth Constitution Reform Delegation. He heard about the CERTs Seed Grants and saw an opportunity. 

“This would give our community members and boxing team a much needed, well-lit space to conduct community wellness events,” Sommers notes. “The other benefit we could see with an updated LED (lighting) system would be a lower utility cost. The money saved can be allocated to other facility updates and youth programming.”

The lighting retrofit included changing 87 fluorescent fixtures to LED fixtures, and then removing 348 old tube lights and replacing them with 174 LED bulbs.  

“This project served the Naytahwaush Community whose population size is 476. The surrounding communities of Mahnomen, Waubun, and Rice Lake also benefit from this project by offering a safe space to work on physical health."

Councilmember Eugene Sommers, White Earth Tribal Council

The 30+ boxers and community members who use the gym saw a difference right away notes Sommers, “They liked the new lights a lot better. It made the place a lot brighter.”

This lighting retrofit project took place during the tail-end of a pandemic and world-wide inflation that created a shortage of materials and available labor. “I learned to budget for change orders and to expect timelines to be adjusted,” says Sommers. “My advice would be to be patient.”

Clean Energy Focus: Energy efficiency LED lighting upgrade

Northwest CERT Seed Grant: $5,000

Other Funds Leveraged: Self-funded with White Earth Boxing Club funds

Energy Saved Each Year: 17,470 kWh

Money Saved Each Year: $2,000

People Involved and Reached: 72

Though Sommers had to hang up his gloves as the boxing coach, it was for a good reason: his recent election to the White Earth Tribal Council.

Councilmember Sommers sees a bright future for continued clean energy efforts at White Earth. “We’re looking at a community center in Mahnomen, there may be a chance to do more energy work there.”

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