As we approach the middle of winter in northern Michigan, the sting of cold on the faces, toes and wallets of residents is ever apparent. With a few weatherization fixes within the home, the sting of heating bills can be lessened and energy efficiency improved. But while the average home is in need of weatherization, temporary and permanent measures are at times out of reach.
This is where the Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency (NMCAA) has stepped in. The NMCAA is a non-profit Community Action Agency serving ten counties in northwest lower Michigan through programs such as Senior Nutrition, Meals on Wheels, Head Start and the Weatherization program.
The mission statement of the Weatherization program is simple: to reduce energy costs for low-income families by improving the energy efficiency in their homes, while ensuring their health and safety. With a particular focus on the elderly, those with disabilities and children, the program has successfully completed improvements to more than 10,000 homes over the last 35 years. With the relief of some of their energy costs, qualifying individuals are able to put money towards other necessities, such as medicine, food and clothing.
Diagnosing the problems in each home requires an energy audit, which is performed by a qualified auditor. In addition, local weatherization contractors perform the work, and in turn supply their materials locally, boosting the northern Michigan economy. Common weatherization improvements include attic, sidewall and foundation insulation, air infiltration and inspection of all combustion appliances. Permanent energy measures such as storm windows and appliance replacement are also implemented when necessary, all free of cost for the resident.
Program Director Gary Yankee has seen the annual funding for the program fluctuate from as many as 600 houses served per year, down to 80 houses. In April 2009, the NMCAA received a 3-year contract from the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) to weatherize 943 homes in cooperation with the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act.
“The problem is, we have accounted for 684 homes, with only 259 yet to be completed and have a waiting list of almost 1000 people across the 10 county service area. Since the regular program is for approximately 100 houses per year, this has created a waiting list that can be as long as 4-years in some counties,” said Yankee. “Obviously this shows a tremendous need for funding this program on the National level.”
While the waiting list continues to grow and more Michigan residents become recipients of this energy- and life-altering program, continued funding will keep the service active in the community. During the month of February, Eco-Building Products will donate 3.5% of our gross profit in our in store sales to the NMCAA to assist in the continuation of their mission of service.
For more details on the Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency and their Weatherization program, visit www.nmcaa.net/weather.asp or call (231) 346-2173.