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A Special Thanks to Weatherization Field Workers

Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Winter scene with snow on house.While waking up to another day of single degree temperatures in the DC area, Rich Courtney, a long-time colleague and friend, sent a note reflecting on the Weatherization crews venturing out on these freezing cold days to help those who are in such dire need of WAP services. All too often, I am neck deep in emails, reports, advocacy, policy issues, and the like. Rich’s reminder about the field workers on a day like this was a good reality check to again acknowledge that the real heart and soul of the WAP are those dedicated field workers.

Rich went on to comment about the “anonymous army of professionals of Weatherization crew chiefs, technicians, auditors, and inspectors who apply their trade year round, and do their jobs most every work day regardless of conditions, seldom yielding to extremes in weather.  When they’re finished, most crew members will pack up their tools and equipment and leave without much thanks or fanfare and focus on the next job. I’ve watched crews return at the end of a work day definitely dirtier and certainly more tired than when they started the day. All they want is to return home, spend some quality time with family and rest before they start all over again the next day.”

The terms “anonymous” and “without much thanks or fanfare” hit hard. Regardless of policy, organizational structures, field standards, good management, etc., the ultimate success of the Weatherization Program is really because of the work done by the field workers. Without their commitment and quality work, all the rest is pretty meaningless. Policy and field standards make a difference when they’re implemented on the jobsite; otherwise, they’re just words on paper.

Perhaps many of you readers are like me – on the surface you know and understand the tough conditions and the hard work of the WAP network field staff, but may need that reminder to again put it all in proper perspective. Thanks Rich, for that reminder, and an even greater thanks to the thousands of Weatherization field workers – the auditors, crew chiefs, installer/technicians, and inspectors – who are the real backbone of the WAP!

Posted by: Bob Scott at 9:58 AM
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Menda Richardson back at DDOE WAP after tour in Iraq

Wednesday, August 22, 2012
We are happy to report that Menda Richardson is back at the District Department of Energy (DDOE) Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) after a tour in Iraq as part of the US Army Reserve! We sat down with Menda to discuss her time in Iraq and life back in Washington, DC:

What was your experience in Iraq like?
Menda: My experience in Iraq was a good one. I met people that I will never forget. Some of us keep in touch. My area of focus was called “Operation Clean Sweep” which allowed me to travel quite a bit over there. Each area was just as hot as the last area visited. The unit of over 300 soldiers was called the 77th Sustainment Brigade and its purpose was to support in the closure of the Iraqi bases. We were successful and a part of history. I hate that so many people lost their lives over there. I was able to see for myself how easy that could happen. It changed me in many ways.

How does it feel to be back in Washington?
Menda: It is great to be back. I missed family and friends to include my bear of a dog. She would not let me out of her site, once I returned. My family went through serious medical drama while I was gone. Beyond all the sadness, the family is doing very well.

Is DDOE glad to have you back?
Menda: Yes and I have resumed my old position. The notice to my office was very short prior to my departure and Lance Loncke was pulled from his position to fill in while I was gone. He had worked with weatherization previously and had a better understanding of the policies and regulations. One of the biggest adjustments was between both me and my staff reconnecting. I was truly missed and that is a good feeling.

We are truly grateful to have Menda back working on the WAP safe and sound. Everyone please join us in thanking Menda for her service and her work in the District. Thank you Menda! 

Posted by: Alice Gaston at 10:09 AM
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Energy Efficiency: A Bright Idea

Monday, July 02, 2012
These days, it seems like all anyone talks about is jobs and an ever gloomier economic outlook. It has even become a meme to respond to a question or begin a sentence with an ever-so-ironic, “well, in this economy . . .” Congress is mired in partisan bickering and a clear solution for how to solve the myriad very real problems facing the nation remains hazy. However, there is one sound investment out there that has always been and remains to be a winning combination of economic stimulator, job creator, wallet-fattener, and all around good investment: energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency, while routinely invoked as an easy way to save a few bucks or make your home more comfortable (never mind that energy audits can find life-threatening carbon monoxide leaks or mitigate asthma triggers) also strengthens the economy as a whole by creating demand for small businesses and contractors to provide services. Additionally, retrofits provide immediate and visible savings to the home or business owner, who can then spend those dollars on other goods, thus reinvesting in the local economy. Additionally, every bit of energy we avoid using lessens the pressure on our dwindling non-renewable energy supplies and makes investment in potentially environmentally degrading fracking, foreign oil from hostile countries, or other unsavory options unnecessary. This avoided expenditure also means that harmful chemicals are not released into the atmosphere, hastening climate change. Energy efficiency can also provide a “bridge” between our old energy economy, dependent on coal, oil, and natural gas, and a new energy economy, using renewable energy sources. So why is the public not clamoring for more?

The fact is, the initial investment in building retrofits or high efficiency vehicles can seem dauntingly high and, as any homeowner knows, building improvement projects can be time consuming and frustrating. Plus, the types of building retrofit measures installed are often invisible and may seem not worth it, despite the proven savings. The Energy Information Administration estimates that 41% of total U.S. energy consumption comes from buildings,  22% of which comes from homes.  This energy usage is comprised of over 70% of national electricity and 50% of natural gas consumption.  This is a huge untapped market energy savings can total 25% (approximately $500 annually) for residential  and 50% for commercial properties.  One factor holding back large retrofit projects is the tight financial markets, which have made it harder for businesses to get financing and so business owners have shifted their priorities elsewhere.

President Obama has demonstrated his continuing support of broader energy efficiency efforts, requesting a 52% increase in energy efficiency for FY2013.  While this is a step toward energy independence, much more remains to be done.  Efforts to stimulate demand should include a wider array of financing options for home and business owners; tax rebates and credits for the purchase of larger goods, such as energy efficient appliances and high efficiency vehicles; and a clear message that, while an “all-of-the-above” strategy for energy is expedient in the short-term, renewable energy is clearly the sustainable option and energy efficiency provides an important stepping stone on the way to a clean energy future.

Posted by: Rebecca Stewart at 1:25 PM
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Weatherization Plus Health Regional Conference Update

Thursday, June 09, 2011
The first ever Wx Plus Health Regional Conference took place last week, May 23-25, in Portland, Maine. Attendance numbered over 100 and participants gathered from across New England and beyond. The Department of Energy (DOE) hosted the conference with the goal of fostering new partnerships between practitioners of weatherization and healthy homes. Representatives from the DOE, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Department of Labor (DOL) all joined the proceedings.

Healthy Homes and WAP have the potential to be extremely complementary, but many practitioners of one program are not fully familiar with the other. One major conference goal was to provide an opportunity to clear up any misconceptions about these two programs. Thus, to begin, participants attended one of two concurrent sessions:  an Introduction to WAP for Healthy Homes providers and an Introduction to Healthy Homes for WAP providers. Each presentation explained the mission and methods of its selected program and allowed time for audience interaction and questions.

After establishing a shared understanding of WAP and Healthy Homes, the conference delivered several resources to help participants set the foundation for future cooperative efforts. For example, one session featured successful WAP-Healthy Homes partnerships that discussed best practices for collaboration. Another critical component was a set of facilitated meetings for each participating state. These sessions encouraged conference attendees to brainstorm shared priorities with potential partners in their community. The effort was overseen by trained facilitators, and participants were able to take from the meetings a roster of prospective partners and a set of outcomes for which their new partnerships might strive.

There will be five additional Weatherization Plus Health Regional Conferences this year with similar content. To learn more, please visit the Weatherization Plus Health page on WAPTAC.

Posted by: Jeff Wojciechowski at 1:43 PM
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The NASCSP Board presented the 2011 James Gardner Weatherization Award to Ken Rauseo.

Monday, March 14, 2011
The NASCSP Board presented the 2011 James Gardner Weatherization Award at the 2011 Mid-Winter Conference in Bethesda, Maryland to Ken Rauseo.

Jim Gardner served in several capacities in the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program.  The James Gardner Award was the first award established by NASCSP because we wanted to recognize this friend of Weatherization - this advocate of the program and the states.   And it is Jim’s spirit that we honor most.

Jim had a certain openness and approachability; he was very easy to talk to regarding issues, problems, or concerns that any state might have.  He was an honest, straight shooter, and as one member described him, “a ‘friendly’ Fed’”.  When Jim said, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”, you knew he meant it.  He was totally dedicated to the Weatherization Assistance Program and he knew it well.  Jim had the ability to understand different people’s points of view.  He was quiet and unassuming, but had a wealth of knowledge and was the epitome of grace under pressure. 

For these and other reasons, NASCSP established the James Gardner Weatherization Award in his honor.  This award recognizes leadership achievements at the national, state or local level that show a positive impact on the Weatherization community through either policy, or technological or programmatic contributions.  The recipient must have played a key role in the planning and design of new activities, and/or displayed a dedication and commitment to his/her constituency as a leader of and advocate for Weatherization.

Most recent winners include Mimi Burbage, Program Coordinator, Alaska Housing Finance; Tim Lenahan, Residential Programs Manager, Office of Energy Efficiency in Ohio’s Department of Development; and Cal Steiner, Weatherization Technician Specialist with the Division of Community Services in the North Dakota Department of Commerce.

NASCSP and the Weatherization Network congratulates Ken on all the hard work and dedication to weatherization in the State of Massachusetts and across the nation that has led to this award.

Posted by: Alice Gaston at 2:07 PM
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Happy Holidays

Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Season's Greetings!  We wanted to share the below poem written by a WAP recipient in Idaho.  We feel these kind words express the gratitude of many of the program's recipients, and also strongly reflect on the dedication and compassion of WAP crews everywhere.  Such efforts are why Weatherization Works!  Thank you for your hard work and success in the past year.   

A special thanks to Christina Zamora of Community Action Partnership of Idaho and Ken Robinette of South Central Community Action Partnership for passing this along.

Client Poem Final

Posted by: Bob Scott at 4:50 PM
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DOE Recognizes 12 states for outstanding performance

Friday, October 08, 2010
At our Fall Conference in Charleston, South Carolina, the Department of Energy (DOE) recognized twelve states for their outstanding progress in judiciously spending the money awarded to them under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  

Awards went to states that had spent at least 40 percent of their allocated funds and completed at least 40 percent of projects under ARRA.  States recognized included Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. 

Mary Chant, Executive Director of the Community Action Partnership Association of Idaho, commented on the award, stating, “Idaho's steadfast commitment to quality and success is noticed every day by the low-income we are privileged to serve.  Occasionally, it is noticed by others who can shine a light on these accomplishments to inspire and lead others to greater aspirations. I hope Idaho's weatherization providers, which are the Community Action Partnership agencies and the Canyon County Organization on Aging, can take a moment to enjoy their success.”  

We applaud the fine work being done by these states and have every faith the remaining states and territories will meet and exceed the goals set by the Administration for the Recovery Act.

Posted by: Alice Gaston at 3:03 PM
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National Association of State Community Services Programs (NASCSP) Meeting

Friday, October 01, 2010
Jim Gunshinan is the Editor of "Home Energy Magazine" and a guest contributor to the WAPTAC blog.

This is a meeting of the state managers of DOE's Weatherization Assistance Program and HHS' Community Services Block Grants Program. Fifty eight states and territories, including Saipan,U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam are here, represented by 350 people. The largest NASCSP ever.

The conference is a contrast to 2009, when ARRA was just passed. The Wx community is more mature, a little tired, more realistic, but still enthusiastic. Most of the people here were not here in 2008. Worries about succession among the old-timers (Bob Adams, Bob Scott, Joel Eisenberg, for example) are gone. Lots of committed young folk. Bob Adams said "Last time I knew 90% of the people here, now it is about 10%." And he was happy when he said it.

Focus this time is on reporting results so that the good of the programs are recognized. Need good press because there has been some bad press early on that keeps getting repeated. Not that the bad press wasn't true... Lots of growing pains having to do with Davis-Bacon prevailing wage laws being applied to WAP for the first time, Historical Preservation Act requirements also applied to WAP for the first time, accelerated ramp-up, and new strenuous reporting requirements. End result so far is nearly 200,000 homes weatherized in 18 months through ARRA funding; about 30,000 homes per month. And a Weatherization Community that has shown incredible dedication and persistance. Weatherization is Working!

I am still struck by how many people of color are in this community at all levels from DOE managers to weatherization technicians.

And Charleston is fantastic! The history dating back to the 1600s; the architecture; the charm; the port and oceanfront; and the food that rivals that of any city in the United States. If you've never been, gotta get here sometime. Had seafood at "FIG" last and will have steak at The Chophouse with my brother Tommy coming down from Raleigh, NC for a visit tonight.


Posted by: Jim Gunshinan at 3:40 PM
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