South Central: Central Community Action Agency of Mississippi

 

Images Courtesy of Josh Wolfe

“The worst problem was it was raining in [thehouse]. It was raining in all the different rooms,” said Eula Mae Ayers. “Now I don’t have to worry about it. And I can stay warm.”

Ms. Ayers is just one of more than a thousand Mississippi homeowners whose lives have been transformed by the South Central Community Action Agency (SCCAA), this year’s Residential Energy Efficiency Awards winner for Weatherization. A relative newcomer to the Weatherization Assistance Program, SCCAA has nonetheless made a big impact. Since 2009, SCCAA has weatherized more than 1,400 homes and created 93 jobs for local residents, including contractors. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the state of Mississippi was allocated $49.4 million for the weatherization program but only had access to the first 50 percent of the funding.

By weatherizing more than 30 percent of their total estimated homes and meeting a series of aggressive accountability and reporting milestones, the state now has access to all the funds. Mississippi wouldn’t have reached its weatherization goals without the SCCAA, which weatherized 700 more homes than it was contracted to and was praised by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu for “delivering energy and cost savings for the families who need it most.

So how were they able to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time? “Dedicated people,” said Executive Director Jesse Griffin. “People who really care about helping people.” The people who have been helped the most by SCCAA’s weatherization program are primarily elderly, disabled or low income families with young children in Simpson, Hinds, Rankin and Madison counties. Rising energy costs in these communities are an excessive burden on residents, and weatherization helps to alleviate that burden by making their homes healthier, safer and energy efficient.

The work begins with an energy audit and covers a wide range of solutions, from installing additional insulation to caulking cracks in the building to replacing inefficient heating and cooling equipment. This includes conducting an energy audit in the home and implementing solutions that range from installing additional insulation to caulking cracks in the building to replacing inefficient heating and cooling equipment.
“I visit homes … and [the residents] never had the resources to improve their quality of life, to reduce their energy billing,” said Richard Harris of the Mississippi Department of Human Services. “They’re just so pleased with the quality of work that our people have done.” All that work has created jobs and training opportunities for local residents, too.

“The training we received from the Department of Energy and the Mississippi Department of Human Services has been invaluable,” said Griffin. In fact, it was a critical part of the state’s success in meeting its weatherization targets under the Recovery Act. And training has the longterm benefit of preparing the next generation of contractors to launch or further their careers in weatherization and energy retrofits. One of the biggest challenges SCCAA faced was finding ways to serve low-income residents whose homes fell outside the scope of work in weatherization. By forming non-traditional partnerships with organizations such as Bank Plus, Habitat for Humanity and USDA Rural Development, SCCAA found innovative ways to service homes that otherwise would not qualify for assistance. For Harris, walking away was never an option.
“We have an obligation to people, and it isn’t all about dollars and cents. It’s about improving their quality of life.” One leaky roof at a time.

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