Scharmel Roussel, Energy Corps member with Arkansas Interfaith Power & Light, shared this story about energy efficiency upgrades that she and community volunteers installed at the Vera Lloyd Children’s Home in Monticello, Arkansas.
When you knock on the door of the Pettus House on the campus of Vera Lloyd Children’s Home in Monticello, Arkansas, more than a dozen young ladies greet you, welcome you, shake your hand, and offer hugs. After half a day, you know their names, their home towns, and some of their stories. All have been abused and neglected – removed from their homes by the court system. The Vera Lloyd Children’s Home is now their guardian.
So what is Energy Corps doing on the campus of a group home? Volunteers have provided small improvements that will make a huge difference with lasting impact far beyond many sacks of groceries. Not that we have anything against sacks of groceries – healthy, local food is critical for low income communities. But through savings on energy bills, we hope group homes will have more funds for healthy food, medical care, and programs that benefit our marginalized children.
Arkansas Energy Corps members and volunteers from Energy Innovation of Arkansas, Second Presbyterian Church, Arkansas Interfaith Power & Light and Sierra Club spent less than $2,000 and hundreds of hours over four days providing energy efficiency improvements. Armed with CFL bulbs, socket sealers, weather stripping, caulk guns, duct tape, spray foam, foam board, low-flow shower heads and programmable thermostats, the 30 volunteers sealed the building. They lowered the hot water temperature. Then professionals blew cellulose insulation into the attic – paid for by donations raised by Energy Corps members.
The efforts started with a blower door test on October 22, 2012 to determine the leakiest areas of the building. Then the volunteers went shopping at a Habitat for Humanity Re-Store and Home Depot to purchase materials.
Volunteers returned on November 3, December 18, and January 21. Teens tumbled from a Little Rock church van and went to work changing light bulbs and shower heads. Now 100% of the light bulbs are energy efficient CFLs. Adults installed programmable thermostats and cut foam board to insulate utility closets. Young residents enthusiastically helped adults install weather stripping and repair water leaks.
Over a barbecue lunch, adults, teens and children discussed sources of energy, the importance of conservation and even why polystyrene and plastic were not part of the lunch table. Pre-event assessments and post-event assessments indicated that volunteers and residents increased awareness on energy-savings, recycling, and environmental issues. A Vera Lloyd staff member asked how she could make similar improvements at her home, and we gave her socket sealers to get started. Volunteers said they would use what they learned to install weather stripping and foam insulation at home.
Each time volunteers returned to the Pettus House, they met new residents. Girls had moved out. Other girls had moved in. This fact reminds us of the large number of young people who will benefit from our energy efficiency efforts over decades to come.
What was the result? Attic insulation R-value increased from 7 to 30. The anticipated savings are 40% in the first year, taking into account inflation. Over a 20-year period, the Pettus House is expected to save roughly $8,000 in utility bills. If not for anticipated inflation of utility costs, the savings would be even greater.
Why do we do this? We do it for Samantha – “Sammie.” The 10-year-old enthusiastically helped stop water leaks and install weather stripping at the place she temporarily called home. She touched our hearts. She broke our hearts. But Sammie also gave us hope. It is that hope that will take us to the next project and all the projects after that.
Past retrofit projects provided by Arkansas Interfaith Power and Light include Walters Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, Carlisle; Billy Mitchell Boys & Girls Club, Little Rock; Duncan United Methodist Church, Little Rock; Wofford Missionary Baptist Church, Helena; Simone’s Home for Foster Teenage Girls, Little Rock; Mount Comfort Presbyterian Church, Fayetteville.
Scharmel Roussel is returning for a second year of service as an Energy Corps member. She was a founding member of Arkansas Interfaith Power and Light in 2009. In 2012, she served the organization as Outreach Coordinator and will continue in that role in 2013. Arkansas Interfaith Power and Light focuses on energy efficiency improvements at houses of worship and community service buildings in low-income areas. Another focus is increasing awareness levels of energy conservation and other environmental issues at schools, summer camps, youth groups, and adult groups. Scharmel serves on the Steering Committee for the Creation Care Conference in April, 2013 at St. Margaret Episcopal Church in Little Rock.