Story of the Week

An image of Conor Teal outside the COVER store. The home repair and weatherization services that I have participated in have a variety of impacts on assisting those in recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. A primary benefit of the projects I have served on is helping to reduce the baseline energy costs of households. With inflated costs in goods, including heating oil, due to the market effects of the pandemic, any energy saving actions completed now can be even more valuable later if these costs continue to rise.

All of the families that my host site organization serves have above average energy burdens on their finances. Weatherization in their homes is especially important to be able to allow them to have more discretionary funds available to them, rather than spent on wasted energy loss. These homes will benefit from feeling less drafty with fewer water and air leakage. To help with safety precautions, equipment such as grab bars and railings are installed to reduce the risk of falls and other injuries. On a social level, our service connects with individuals, many of whom have been isolated during the pandemic and so being able to share a pleasant conversation with another person is a worthwhile service to them.

My initial onboarding experience with AmeriCorps and with my host organization was serving at the home of “Brenda,” a middle-aged woman hosting her son with severe physical health conditions, as well as caring for her elderly mother. The mobile home they own and live in has shown its age, and they requested the assistance of my host site organization, COVER Home Repair, for insulating the skirting and other weatherization services. There were several volunteers present that day, so I was able to witness a true example of how my host site operates with home repair: people helping people. We finished the skirting project that day, which will reduce how much warm air escapes her home and protect the underbelly of her home from the elements. We would return later for other weatherization services, including more air sealing and installing interior storm windows.

Brenda is charismatic, curious, and a natural problem-solver and she would want to accomplish the tasks we completed for her on her own if she physically could. She talked and joked with us as we performed the weatherization services, offering freshly cooked meals every time. Even after some of the windows weren’t fitting correctly and I would have to adjust them and return later to get them installed, Brenda was still upbeat, grateful for our time, and understood the challenges, even offering suggestions for accomplishing them.

The last time I was at her home, I finished installing the remaining interior storm windows after making necessary adjustments back at the workshop. After the project was complete, she and I stepped outside and she initiated a really honest conversation about her current situation and the various health issues weighing on her and her family. She also shared her struggles of maintaining her home effectively and not being physically able to keep up on all of them. I was able to validate the dedication and persistence she has in caring for those close to her. It seems that over the multiple visits to her home, she became more comfortable with me and more appreciative of the AmeriCorps service mission. Our conversation and the initial positive experience I had in repairing her home with others, has emboldened my resolution to service and helping to address housing needs for disadvantaged individuals in the region.