The following article is from the Oct. 25, 2016 York Weekly.
Stretching the dollar and staying warm
YORK — As many as 50 lower-income York families – homeowners and renters – will be a little warmer this winter and spend less on fuel, thanks to a unique collaboration with York Community Service Association, Habitat for Humanity York County, York Rotary Club and the state program Efficiency Maine.
Eligible occupants of houses and mobile homes throughout town will receive free weatherization services from local volunteers and professionals, including an energy audit, through a new program expected to get off the ground by next month.
The idea for the program began when Rotarian Rozanna Patane attended a Habitat event late last year and learned the organization offered a weatherization program, she said.
“I asked, ‘Would you think about York?’ and they said yes. Then I turned to Michelle (Surdoval, executive director of YCSA) and she said yes. Then I asked the Rotary Club and they said yes,” she said.
Chairwoman of the town’s Energy Steering Committee, Patane added, “It’s been on my mind from the beginning that energy efficiency measures and clean energy are often alternatives available to people who have money. As a matter of social fairness, we need to make the same kind of resources available to those who don’t have money.”
“People who are getting fuel assistance are still wanting to do the best thing they can for the environment and themselves,” said Surdoval. “They’re conscious of the energy they’re using.”
The collaboration is a first of its kind for Habitat for Humanity, said director Amy Nucci. “It’s very exciting for us. Our county is very big and last year we were able to help just 32 people through our weatherization program. It’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of need. York is the only place that’s doing this now, but we look forward to expanding that.”
Initially, the program was going to get underway with funding of $7,000 — $3,500 each from the York Rotary Club and a grant from the regional Rotary District 7780. Surdoval, also a Rotarian, Patane and Nucci put together a plan based on Habitat’s typical, $250 weatherization protocol – window inserts, weather stripping, caulking, air sealing, basement sills and exposed pipe insulation.
Depending on what Habitat discovers when it sends a crew, there may be a need for more intensive work, like installing storm doors or adding a hatch cover. Habitat sets aside $500 for this work.
In York’s case, with the Rotary money, they figured they were going to be able to accommodate 16 projects, in addition to paying for window inserts for 30 renters. Then along came Efficiency Maine, and things changed quickly.
The state agency just launched a $2 million Low Income Home Energy Savings Program, intended to help eligible people throughout Maine who live in poorly insulated and inefficient homes.
“Rozanna called me out of the blue and said, ‘Do you have any suggestions that could help us?’” said Dana Fischer, residential program manager at Efficiency Maine. “I said, ‘Stop the presses. I’m coming down to talk with you.’ This is just the kind of collaborative group I’m looking for.”
So the $250 weatherization per household was leveraged into $1,050 — $1,000 of Efficiency Maine money with a $50 local match. The $500 weatherization morphed into $1,500. The three women are still trying to figure out how to use the original money in the most cost-effective way, but it’s clear that there will be many more than 16 projects.
Part of the allure for Efficiency Maine, said Patane, is volunteer involvement from both Rotary and from Habitat for Humanity. “We brought a solid concept and a partnership that was already in place. As many as 20 volunteers from the York Rotary Club will be working on these projects.” The group is also recruiting York churches, service organization and Scout troops to help out.
Renters are another important part of the program, though how that will work practically is still being determined. Habitat offers window inserts to renters, but anything beyond that becomes an owner issue. Patane said Fischer will be coming to York to meet with landlords to let them know what Efficiency Maine programs are available to them specifically. “Hopefully, we can come to an agreement with what is possible for renters. That’s evolving,” said Patane.
Patane and Surdoval bring their own outlook to this project.
For Surdoval, it means families who call York home can see their dollars stretched just a little further. “Many families we work with have been here for generations. This is their community and they’re not leaving, and they’re trying to figure out how to stay. This is a preventive model for me. This is trying to stay ahead of the curve before it gets into a bigger crisis.”
From the Energy Steering Committee perspective, said Patane, “in addition to everything Michelle just said, we’re actually reducing energy demand in total on the earth if we can make homes more efficient. That’s a worthy goal for us as a community and a need for us globally.”
For more information on the program or to volunteer, contact Surdoval at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The weatherization program is seeking volunteers, and has scheduled training programs for interested individuals and groups.
The first training sessions are scheduled at York Library on Wednesday, Nov. 9, and at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore on Saturday, Nov. 12. There will be other training opportunities in the future, and a window-building workshop is being scheduled for late November. The groups who are working on the project hope to have the first five homes weatherized before Christmas.
Individuals, churches, Boy and Girl Scout troops, service organizations and other groups are invited to participate.
Those interested in volunteering are asked to email email@example.com.