“Divine intervention, or maybe it was intersection,” that’s Melvin Liwag’s theory on how he became involved with a faith-based nonprofit’s new mobile shower for the homeless. What else could it have been, really?
Over lunch at the Liwag home one Saturday in August 2018, a family friend from church casually mentioned that a group of young do-gooders she belonged to, SALT Outreach, would soon unveil its new mobile shower trailer with four private bathrooms. She was pretty excited about the prospect of SALT (Service and Love Together) providing the homeless with a basic need.
So, too, was Liwag, a Senior Engineer at OUC, but his enthusiasm was tempered by an inquisitive nature and his years of experience as a motor home owner.
“Where will you hook up for water and electricity?”
“This whole organization is made up of the best young people you could think of,” says Liwag, 18 months after that fateful day in August. “But they really had no idea how to operate the mobile shower and their first event was only a week away.”
SALT’s founder, President and CEO, Eric Camarillo, admits as much, saying, “We didn’t know anything about the shower trailer and he helped us learn how to dump the waste and explained how to operate it.”
Liwag’s de facto consultant role came to include the job of transportation manager since he owned a heavy duty truck. All services were rendered pro bono, of course.
“From the start I was their trainer,” he says.
Being a numbers guy, Liwag calculated how long each of an approximate 60 showers per event could last with the trailer’s 225-gallon water supply.
“A typical showerhead flows 2.5 gallons per minute,” he says, “so two to three minutes each would be the limit.”
While Liwag was helping SALT Outreach operate the trailer, Camarillo was looking for sponsors to help with costs. In February 2019, unbeknownst to Liwag, he met with Jenise Osani, OUC Vice President of Marketing and New Products, and Lisa Curran, OUC Manager of Community Relations.
“They mentioned solar panels,” recalls Camarillo. “Solar would make us truly mobile. We could access areas where we couldn’t go before because power wasn’t there.”
Osani says the opportunity SALT’s mobile shower presented OUC was twofold: “It’s a win-win opportunity for SALT to become more mobile and for OUC to weave sustainability into a community partnership.”
OUC contributed $10,000 toward the cost of installing rooftop solar panels on the trailer.
But solar power was as much a mystery to Camarillo as was the shower trailer when his group first bought it.
Now, if only he knew someone who had expertise in electrical engineering and could advise him on solar power….
“Melvin helped us with determining the kind of solar system to install,” says Camarillo, explaining that Liwag accompanied him to a meeting with a solar energy contractor. With terms like kilowatts, amps, 12 and 120 volts being tossed around, Camarillo, 32, whose day job is a “long-term ability specialist” with an insurance company, had a hard time following the conversation.
But Liwag was in his element and he could translate the technical jargon into actionable advice.
On Jan. 12, 2019, SALT Outreach debuted its solar-powered mobile shower trailer in downtown Orlando.
“Fortunately I was there to help fill a need,” says Liwag, who was recently relieved of transportation duties after SALT acquired a truck. “It’s exciting OUC believes in this group, and I’m proud to be involved in both organizations.”