ABOVE PHOTO: Serendipity Center strives to give students the tools and knowledge they need to successfully transition from the classroom to adulthood upon graduation. – PHOTO COURTESY: Ashley Bartels


For more than 40 years, Serendipity Center has been educating students in the Portland metro area. The school emphasizes the importance of mental health and supports students through in-house therapy, wellness programs, coaching and special education services. Teachers and staff members take each child’s emotional and behavioral differences into account and maintain a positive learning environment where every student can heal, experience joy and gain new skills.

Serendipity Center strives to give students the tools and knowledge they need to successfully transition from the classroom to adulthood upon graduation. One way they do this is through their Transition Skills Classroom, in which students have the opportunity to learn about different industries and careers. To learn about the food service industry, students work in the school’s kitchen, getting hands-on experience.

Programs like Transition Services are great for helping students apply learnings to real-world situations, but they have the potential to be better. “There’s just not enough people power to complete all the work we’d like to get done,” said Rachel Gitner, Serendipity Center’s director of development.

After analyzing daily tasks for time-saving opportunities, staff members determined buying a commercial dishwasher would cut back on the amount of time they would spend cleaning up, giving them more time to focus on students in the Transition Skills Classroom. They collaborated with Vancouver-based vendor Commercial Dishwasher to select the right model for the school’s needs, which meant prioritizing both functionality and sustainability.

“We use environmentally-friendly solutions and alternatives when preparing food, cleaning the school and in other maintenance activities,” Gitner said. “We are always looking out for energy-efficient solutions to lessen our footprint.”

To help cover the cost of the upgrade, Commercial Dishwasher referred Gitner to Energy Trust of Oregon to receive a cash incentive for the equipment purchase. The school secured over $800 in cash incentives that made the new dishwasher more affordable.

As a bonus, when compared to a less-efficient model, the new dishwasher will save Serendipity Center nearly 500 therms and 1,000 kWh annually. These energy savings will result in Serendipity Center spending $400 less on their utility bill every year.

“If you’re considering participating in Energy Trust’s program, do it,” Gitner said. “The process for requesting and receiving incentives was so smooth. Energy Trust makes it easy to get savings.”

Now that the school has a commercial dishwasher in its kitchen, the staff spends significantly less time cleaning dishes and more time teaching kitchen skills.

Reduce the amount of energy it takes to power your foodservice appliances and equipment by upgrading to more energy-efficient models. Energy Trust is here to help with cash incentives that make equipment upgrades more affordable. Learn more about energy efficiency for your business or email to connect with an energy advisor.

To see how Energy Trust can help your business run better with energy-saving tips and resources, visit