A couple of winters ago the Centre County Fuel Bank ran out of money. Administered by Interfaith Human Services (IHS), the Fuel Bank is funded through local donations and provides assistance to low-income families who have already exhausted the fuel that they received through the federal LIHEAP program. When Ruth Donahue, the Executive Director of Interfaith Human Services, went to county officials and to United Way to ask for more funds, they asked whether there was any way to reduce the demand for fuel. She turned to PA Interfaith Power & Light and asked us to provide classes for the clients of the Fuel Bank on how to reduce their energy use. Our Americorps worker, Kris Klotz, created a powerpoint that became the basis of presentations made by several people, but mostly by another Americorps worker Andy Hayes over the winter of 2012-2013. The 20 classes were given at different locations around Centre County for the convenience of the clients, Congregational members of IHS generously made us welcome in their facilities.
Over the winter of 2013-2014, we continued this collaboration with Interfaith Human Services. New clients of the Fuel Bank who had not attended the previous year’s classes came to 12 presentations throughout the county. David De Moss, an employee of IHS, explained the Fuel Bank procedures to them and Sylvia Neely, a member of the board of PA Interfaith Power & Light, made the energy efficiency presentations. 132 people attended class this season, representing 101 individual households.
Our work with the clients of the Fuel Bank led to the realization of the difficulties some low-income families have in reducing their energy use and often high fuel bills because their housing is inefficient and in need of repair. We saw that these families clearly needed help with weatherizing their homes. Often people did not have the skills to do the work or the money to pay for the supplies.
That is why PA Interfaith Power & Light has created the Weatherization First program, in which volunteers from congregations and the community weatherize homes of Centre County residents. The students of the Penn State chapter of PA IPL have been especially helpful in constructing indoor storm windows for some of the Weatherization First clients. Since October 2013, we have helped 18 households make their homes more energy efficient. These 18 households include 38 individuals.
Through these initiatives, PA IPL is making a difference in the community. People have lower utility bills and more comfortable dwellings. Charitable dollars will go farther. And we are helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Periodically we share Weatherization First pictures and projects on this blog. Use those blog posts for ideas to make your own home more efficient, or join one of our projects to help others in our community. Skilled labor is always a bonus, but it’s also OK to be more willing than skilled.