In the winter months, Mary Taylor felt a chilly draft billowing through her Talladega, Ala., home. The energy bills were mounting up higher and higher. In the summer, the sweltering southern heat was too much for her air conditioner to handle, as the cool air leaked out of house as quickly as the air conditioner could work.
That was before weatherization workers from the Community Action Agency of Talladega, Clay, Calhoun, Randolph and Cleburne Counties received about $1.8 million in Recovery Act money to weatherize homes, including Mary’s, which has lowered her energy bills to an affordable amount while keeping her home toasty this winter.
“The house was tremendously cold, and I just kept the thermostat up as high as it would go trying to stay warm — it was awful,” Mary says. “The underpinning and insulation under the house was all messed up.”
Mary lives on a fixed income because of a disability, and because her energy bills were sometimes a whopping $500 a month, she says, it’s no wonder she struggled to keep up with them.
Mary says the weatherization team from the community action agency’s Talladega branch worked wonders for her home. Her energy bill is about $300 cheaper now, and she no longer has to take extreme measures to keep her and her three children and grandchild warm.
“It makes it a lot easier for me to pay the rest of my bills,” Mary says. “My kids were so happy, they said, ‘Oh, Mama, we don’t have put all those covers on the bed anymore.’ It was a worry to me, too, having to leave electric space heaters plugged up in their rooms trying to keep them warm.”
With their lives made a little bit easier and more comfortable, families such as Mary’s are telling the agency how thankful they are.
“I went up there and told them how amazing it is and how wonderful of a job they did,” Mary says. “Right now everybody I think of who could benefit from the program, I tell them about the difference it made in my life and in my home.”
Kim Pickett, weatherization coordinator assistant at the agency, says the group has been able to hire seven new contractors and two in-house staff members with stimulus money. The contractors employ anywhere from one to five workers each, she says.
According to the agency, it is assessing 60 to 70 homes each month and is well on-track to use its stimulus funds within the two-year time frame it was given, so families just like Mary’s throughout the area will soon experience what it’s like to be warm on frigid winter nights.