HANNIBAL — Crew members with North East Community Action Corporation marked National Weatherization Day on Wednesday at a Hannibal home by performing a top-to-bottom project to seal out the elements through a partnership between NECAC and the Missouri Department Natural Resources Division of Energy.
Homeowner Crystal Stephens and her son, Josh, moved into their home on Chestnut Street in 2012, and they used electric space heaters for warmth because the furnace was not functional. The utility bills were between $800 and $1,200 each month, creating a substantial financial burden. Stephens said she was on the waiting list for the Weatherization Assistance Program for about 3 ˝ years, and she felt excited to discover she moved to the top of the list after purchasing the home built in 1910.
“It can make a big difference, because right now, we're struggling with being able to pay the utility bill and buy food or medicine. With Josh and I both having medical issues, that's a problem,” Stephens said, stressing the changes the work would bring.
NECAC Weatherization Assistance Program Director Joe Findley said the process began about two months ago with an audit of the home — employees checked for air leaks, performed safety tests on appliances and assessed each part of the house to determine needs. Efforts will continue for the next week or two with the installation of new windows, doors and insulation to accompany the efficient “mini split” heating system with wall-mounted units.
“Just what we do through the program, it's changing lives,” Findley said.
Marcy Oerly, planner with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Division of Energy, said the cold temperature and wintry precipitation Wednesday morning “was the perfect example of why we need to weatherize.” The Weatherization Assistance Program is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, along with a transfer of funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Ameren Missouri, Empire Energy and Spire Energy also help fund the work at the state level.
Missouri provides about $15.3 million annually for weatherization services in the state — NECAC receives about $1.1 million of that money — and crews weatherize about 35,000 homes in the Show-Me State each year. Since the program began in 1977, about 193,000 homes have been weatherized statewide, and NECAC weatherized about 9,500 homes across their nine-county coverage area. During the previous fiscal year, Missouri weatherized about 1,300 homes, and NECAC weatherized about 65 homes.
“It really is a rewarding program because you actually get to see locally how this funding can help local residents, and it is also stimulating the economy and creating jobs and helping these clients that we're doing the work in their homes.... they don't have to decide to buy groceries or pay their electric bill,” Oerly said.
Rep. Louis Riggs (R5) said the weatherization program brings benefits for citizens and Missouri's housing stock by renovating existing homes with federal funds that go through the state to the local level.
“When we weatherize like this, we make the cost of living obviously go down, at the same time the quality of life goes up,” Riggs said. “Basically, we take an old house, and we breathe new life into it.”
Stephens was excited for the chance to invite her friends and neighbors over to socialize and have dinner together in the future. And she said the weatherization work will make a lasting difference for her and her son.
“We're making this our forever home,” Stephens said.
More information about the NECAC Weatherization program is available by visiting necac.org/weatherization.