By Amanda Richey, Editor-in-Chief
Even after completing their 100th home weatherization Aug. 17 Furman’s Community Conservation Corps (CCC) is excited to improve a new set of homes and involve more student volunteers in the program.
The CCC, located in the David E. Shi Center for Sustainability, works with low income families in Greenville to provide free home weatherization work that saves homeowners cash on energy bills and reduces carbon emissions.
“We aim to serve low income homeowners. It’s money right back in their pockets,” CCC coordinator Joey Espinosa said. “The majority are retired and on a fixed income. These are people who have served and worked in our community for decades. So here’s a small way Furman can give back to the people who helped build this community.”
The work volunteers do with the program, from caulking to improving attic insulation, can save a participating homeowner up to $400 a year.
“In one scheme saving the average person 300 to 400 dollars a year on their utility bills, well that’s not a whole lot. But to them it’s a lot. Plus they feel better about their home,” Espinosa said. “To see those smiles, knowing that they got help from an organization like this…I love that part.”
Another part of Espinosa’s job is coordinating volunteers to work on homes. Currently most of the volunteers come from Habitat for Humanity, the CCC’s partner since 2013. However, two recent graduates participated in the 100th home weatherization last month. Victoria Wornom, class of ’16, volunteered for the first time with the CCC.
“I knew about the program as a student, but I never knew how to get involved. I never asked about it,” Wornom said. “It was really cool to get out and actually engage with the community, to leave my desk for a bit and work with Furman peers and community members to help a family in need.”
Wornom plans to volunteer more in the future while still in the Greenville area. The CCC and Shi Center staff also plan to get Furman students more directly involved in the program.
“The tricky thing with Furman students is that weekends are usually the best time for them and most of our weatherizations happen during the week,” Espinosa said.
The Community Conservation Corps has scheduled two of their fall weatherizations on Saturdays with the intent of hosting an all-student volunteer group.
Homes are weatherized according to individual need. After an applicant is approved for the program the CCC hires a third party auditor to review areas that need work in a home. After the audit, the homeowner and Espinosa schedule a weatherization date.
“On the day of the weatherization we go through some basic safety procedures, meet the homeowners and then we get to work,” Espinosa said.
Volunteers typically improve sealing and attic insulation, check ductwork and install energy efficient light bulbs. In the most recent home weatherization, volunteers also installed low flow showerheads to save water. A post audit is conducted about a month after the weatherization to assess the volunteers’ work and the homeowner’s energy savings.
In the six years that the CCC has been operating they have saved almost 300 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions by decreasing energy usage in the Greenville area.
While there are other home improvement programs in the region, most focus on repair work, not weatherization. The CCC is unique in their focus but they’re not alone. The program partners with Habitat for Humanity for contracting work and volunteers and frequently works with the City of Greenville on referrals.
For Espinosa, the community engagement work with multiple stakeholders is one of his favorite parts of the CCC. “That’s one of my passions – to see people engaged in the needs around them and to be able to serve. Be a part. If everyone does a little then we can have a very big outcome.”
More information about the Community Conservation Corps and the application process can be found online at http://www.furman.edu. The next Saturday home weatherization is Sept. 10 and students interested in volunteering can contact Joey Espinosa for more information.