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December 11, 2007

Bovina man helps in rebuilding of New Orleans

A Bovina man who volunteered to offer his expertise in solar power to help provide electricity in foreign, rural villages found himself in New Orleans last week working on Brad Pitt's project to build eco-friendly homes.

Bob Morris said he contacted SELF, or Solar Electric Light Fund, and volunteered his services as a technician to go to Nepal and Tibet.

"It was kind of a fluke that I happened to volunteer, and within two or three days, Brad Pitt contacted SELF for help and I ended up in New Orleans," Morris said. "It was a rush thing to do a photovoltaic installation."

The initiative, called Make It Right, is Pitt's latest effort to help the area recover from Hurricane Katrina. The Oscar-nominated actor also worked with the environmental organization Global Green USA to build five single-family homes and an 18-unit apartment complex and community center earlier this year.

Morris said he was one of four full-time volunteers who worked with 15 to 20 daily volunteers to install solar panels in nine bright pink tent structures. Those tents represent the homes Pitt plans to build by the end of next summer.

Morris said the solar panels are placed on the roofs of nine of the structures, which are built on scaffolding. The panels produce electricity that goes into the grid during the day; at night, that power lights the pink tents.

The panels had to be installed in time for a media blitz that began last week to promote Make It Right, Morris said.

"The pink structures look kind of like a Christo thing," Morris said.

Christo's work includes "The Gates," a bright-orange art display in Central Park in 2005.

Morris said he never met Pitt, but saw him riding around on a bicycle.

Bob Freling, executive director of Washington, D.C.-based SELF, said when Make it Right asked for help, he contacted Morris.

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