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Families get help with weatherization, energy assistance

Sunday, May 20, 2012

ANDERSON, Ind. — Glenn Skinner installed the “modern blower” furnace himself more than 53 years ago.

As last winter began to approach, Skinner and wife of nearly 57 years Judith began to worry that it was finally going to “blow” and they’d be without heat.

“Being on a fixed income, I couldn’t replace it,” Glenn Skinner, 81, said. “I had no idea what we would do.”

Glenn Skinner, a retired preacher after 40 years at Main Street Church of God, lost his right leg in a train accident at the age of 18. He’d gotten around well for all those years with a prosthetic leg until he fell and broke his hip.

A family like this is the ideal candidate for assistance from Central Indiana Community Action Programs.

“We were just so grateful,” Judith Skinner said of the weatherization they received from CICAP. “We had a cozy winter and are just so thankful that there is something like this to help people like us.”

Weatherization is one of three main programs administered by CICAP; the others are energy assistance and family development.

CICAP, which is a division of JobSource, began in Madison County in 1983. This past year about 4,100 families were helped with energy assistance, 40 families with family development and about 60 families with weatherization.

“The importance of these programs is to provide assistance to our most vulnerable families in the community, especially in challenging economic times like we have right now,” said Mary Beth Goldsmith, CICAP director of operations. “With these programs we are able to provide direct assistance and education to help people become empowered and more economically self-sufficient.”

CICAP Executive Director Cindy Donnelly pointed out that May is Community Action Month and CICAP belongs to a network of about 1,000 providers throughout the county who are celebrating their services and accomplishments this month. Community Actions were established under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 to fight American’s War on Poverty, she said, with each community action offering different services and programs.

Community Action programs are for low-income families. Documentation of income, address and the number of families’ members will be required to determine eligibility for services.

Jack Elliott, weatherization program manager, said that over the years hundreds of families have been helped through the programs. Their focus is elderly, disabled or families with children.

Each home that is weatherized first undergoes an energy audit and safety check where things like carbon dioxide emissions are tested. Things that can be done during the weatherization include insulation, furnace and water heater replacement and other measures to lower utility costs like installing compact fluorescent light bulbs and low-flow shower heads.

After the work is done, Elliott said the energy auditors return for a final inspection and then educates the family about energy-saving measures.

“A big part of this is helping the homeowners save money but even more important is the health and safety factor,” he said. “We want to make sure everything is safe. And this also helps reduce the amount of fossil fuels being used.”

Data have shown that homes that have been weatherized through CICAP save about 20 percent on energy costs, he said.

The Skinners said the work done was impeccable and they were treated kindly by those with CICAP and those doing the work.

“It is a good program for people who have given to the community in the past but are unable to do for themselves now,” Judith Skinner said. “Everyone has a need sometime and it is nice to know there is a program there to help you during that time of need.”

Donnelly said the Family Development aspect of CICAP is intensive case-management programs that assist families in moving toward self-sufficiency. CICAP has certified Family Development counselors that work with a family to identify areas of their lives needing improve and develop plans to move the family forward.

Utility assistance is a heating and cooling program and requires eligibility be established every year. Payments for eligible households are made to utility vendors on the client’s behalf, Donnelly said.

Anderson, Indiana
Abbey Doyle