Kendra now works in weatherization, part of which often includes using blower door testing equipment to find air leaks, much like the equipment used here by an NREL worker. | File photo
After getting laid off in the fall of 2007 from her executive assistant job at a blues and gospel music group in Jackson, Miss., Kendra Lofton needed a way to pay her bills and support her teenage daughter. Kendra got a job at a local hotel working the front desk, and another as a server at a local restaurant, but those jobs only gave her work for a couple of days a week. That, combined with the huge pay cut and lack of benefits, left Kendra desperate for help.
“I felt horrible — it was the only time in my life I couldn’t provide for my daughter,” she says.
Kendra went to a county agency hoping they could help her find work, but what she really wanted was a career. That’s when she was referred to an upcoming weatherization training program hosted by the Laborers’ International Union of North America, a half-million strong labor union for construction workers, including weatherization workers.
Upon completion of the program, Kendra got a job as a weatherization technician with a contractor for a local community action agency. She went to work weatherizing homes the very next day. She says it’s physically more difficult work than what she had done previously, but that “it’s worth it.”
“This is a career opportunity, not just a job, and that’s what I like about it,” Kendra says, adding that she also enjoys the work because many of the homes she weatherizes are owned by senior citizens. “[Weatherization] improves the atmosphere and the quality of life for elderly people by saving them money and making their homes energy-efficient.”
Kendra also says she’s seeing the effect of Recovery Act money from the U.S. Department of Energy for weatherization working first-hand.
“Local people are being recruited for jobs, and as we get paid we spend money doing what we have to do to provide for our families,” she says. “People in the homes we’re weatherizing are saving money and spending it in the community — everyone benefits from this.”