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CASE weatherizing hundreds of area homes

Monday, June 27, 2011

BLUEFIELD — With summer now in full swing, one local community organization is hoping to complete their goal of weatherizing nearly 300 local residences by the end of the fiscal year.

Oreatta Hubbard, executive director of Community Action South Eastern West Virginia (CASE WV), said the organization is hoping to weatherize 281 homes for underprivileged local residents.

“The weatherization process is often only equated with cold weather, but it also helps with air-conditioning and keeping the heat out during the summer,” Hubbard said. “We are hoping to do at least 281 homes by the end of this fiscal year and we have at least 300 more applications on backlog. As of the middle of May, we had completed weatherization for 228 homes. We are hoping to make within 10 of our goal this year. Each month, our goals change due to progress and our operational budget. If we are really frugal and can get donated materials, we can do more homes.”

According to Hubbard, CASE WV did roughly the same number of weatherization projects on homes last year.

“Last year, we did 289 homes in the four counties we serve —Mercer, Monroe, Summers and Raleigh,” Hubbard said. “We average a cost of $7,000 we put into homes. Nothing we do is cosmetic, and it all goes into energy conservation for the home.”

Those eligible for the weatherization project include the elderly, handicapped and homes with children. Hubbard said families must be at 200 percent of the poverty-income level to receive weatherization.

“These people aren’t who you think,” Hubbard said. “These people are your neighbors.”

Hubbard said the weatherization process can last anywhere from one-and-a-half to three days, but a three-person crew typically finishes weatherization in two days of work.

“It depends on the size of the house and the number of measures we need to take to complete the weatherization process,” she said. “We want an energy savings of 30 percent for each home that we weatherize.”

This year, Hubbard said CASE received extra funding for their weatherization program through the stimulus money.

“This year, we have been awarded $2.2 million for weatherization and $1.3 million of that is through the ARRA or stimulus money,” Hubbard said. “Normally, we get about $650,000 a year in funding, which is what we will have starting the next fiscal year in July.”

However, Hubbard said this funding is not immediately accessible by CASE.

“All of the funds we receive are reimbursement,” Hubbard said. “We don’t get reimbursed until a house is finished and we have turned in all of our completed paperwork to the state. If we don’t do everything absolutely correctly at a house, we will not get reimbursed. For example, if the state finds we missed installing a water heater, they will allow us to go back and fix it but will not reimburse us for that cost. That will come out of pocket for us.”

Hubbard said CASE WV provides a variety of services through their weatherization programs.

“The first thing we do is a filtration audit by setting up our blower door and seeing what areas of the home are allowing air in,” she said. “Then we move on to insulation, where we blow recycled newspapers into attics and walls. We use low-wattage light bulbs for any light burning more than six hours a day and put in smoke detectors. We wrap water heaters and do base loads for refrigerators for energy efficiency.”

According to Hubbard, some of the work CASE does helps do more than just upgrade energy efficiency for a home.

“We have actually saved a few lives by going in to make sure furnaces are working,” she said. “A few of the furnaces we have done work on have actually had dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in the home. We work to correct that.”

In addition, Hubbard said the weatherization projects give back to the community.

“We use several local contractors for the work and those contractors are paid by us, so that puts money into the local economy,” she said. “Since the weatherization gives people more disposal income, they have that money to put back into the local economy. It increases property values in an area and can address health-care issues. In this day in age, bringing down energy costs in a home can help bring down energy costs nationwide.”

According to Hubbard, the most important aspect of the program is giving members of the community the tools they need for success.

“Everything our agency does is focused on helping people in the community become self-sufficient,” she said. “We teach people to fish. We want people to support themselves and become productive members of society.”

For more information on the weatherization program, visit CASE WV online at www.casewv.org or via telephone at 304-324-5804.



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