Ernie Wirtanen, who founded and ran Wirtanen Electric, a large electrical wholesale and equipment rental company in Edmonton, Alberta, was an early benefactor. He helped me get the initial grant from the Science Alberta Foundation to work on providing a renewable energy kit for elementary schools back in 1994; writing a letter from the “business community”. When that grant program halted, and I’d finished university, he promised to help me in its early development, enticing me out onto the branch of small business enough that I was committed. When it broke off and he didn’t lend the promised hand, not seeing much profitability in it, I eventually learned to fly (albeit at a low altitude).
Later on he did help though, purchasing kits by the 50’s, and distributing them to clients and relatives. And later still, after he’d sold his company and retired in Victoria, British Columbia, when thousands were needed to make that second payment on more panels, and my cash flow only had hundreds, he helped me several times over that critical barrier – the up-front for more mini solar panels from China.
All he asked for interest was that I donate to local educational efforts from time to time; and though I might carry that myself so far afield as the MidWest Renewable Energy Fair, Haiti, and Africa he preferred to help locally.
Ernie passed away at the age of 91 a few years back. But we keep it up, here at SunWind, the Ernie Wirtanen Interest Fund, donating kits to solar energy educational events at several different venues in a year. That was his “interest” on his loans to me – to occasionally donate solar car kits so that children could learn in a “hands-on” way about solar electricity.
Attached, a video, about the Vancouver FUN camp to which we donated three Classroom 10-packs: the reward was just seeing this film. As the young man says: “…a very cool thing to learn, and its going to make our earth better one day…”