In the river city of Huntington, W.Va., there exists an eclectic brand of people, ranging from college students and businessmen to steel workers and coal miners. The city sits along the banks of the Ohio River. Like other cities, though, unemployment has taken its toll.
One 25-year-old resident there, Dan Hardy, has worked his entire life to make life better for others. He became unemployed for about eight months after his plumbing and auto repair jobs disappeared. He didn’t have much luck finding a job until the weatherization program at Southwest Community Action Council (SCAC) in Huntington, W.Va., called him for an interview.
SCAC provides Cabell, Lincoln, Mason and Wayne counties with weatherization assistance. For its first year of weatherization funding under the Recovery Act, SCAC’s funding went up to $2.7 million and its responsibility for home weatherization increased from 155 to 365 units. This increase in funding and homes being served led the community action agency to increase its staff from nine to 30 workers.
“Last year, we had just two crews working two counties a piece. This year we were able to put a crew in each county, which means more people are getting services quicker than ever before, which makes them happier,” Connie Sherrill, weatherization coordinator at SCAC, says. “This money is really great because a lot of people who came on board with our program didn’t have jobs before or if they did, they were minimum wage jobs that made it more difficult for them to support themselves or their families.”
Dan was one of those people looking for work. Now he enjoys his employment as a weatherization crew technician, helping make West Virginians’ homes more energy-efficient through weatherization, which includes various processes such as installing energy-efficient windows, insulation or heating and cooling equipment that uses less energy.
“I had done much of this kind of work before already, so it was an easy transition,” Dan says. “I’ve learned a lot from my crew supervisor too because he has run a lot of crews in his life and has lots of experience in this field.”
Dan was doing “whatever was necessary to make a living,” he says. But now, he’s glad to have a steady job where he’s learning new job skills in the green collar workforce.