Lending a Helping Hand

PWC assists poor, elderly with home repairs and energy savings

Dec 20, 2011 at 12:14 pm


s the weather turns cold and gas and electric bills begin to rise, many local residents worry about how they can afford to keep warm.

A local nonprofit organization is trying to help, however, by providing critical home repair services to help those in need.

The organization, People Working Cooperatively (PWC), provides repairs, weatherization, modification and maintenance services to thousands of homes each year.

Now in its 36th year, PWC has provided services to more than 200,000 low-income, elderly and disabled clients in Greater Cincinnati. 

“We provide several services to residents in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky,” says Steve Creed, PWC’s quality control and energy training manager. “One of the services we provide is called weatherization. For this service, we go into people’s homes and try and figure out ways to lower their energy costs.”

Running a full range of diagnostic checks, trained professionals inspect the homes for insulation problems, cracks around windows, air leaks and moisture problems. 

These issues not only make a home unsafe, but they can also significantly increase gas and electric costs. 

“Weatherization averages a 25-percent reduction in energy costs,” Creed says. “It makes a home more energy efficient and safer. It also puts money back in the pockets of those in need.”

By fixing a broken windowpane, adding some insulation to a home or weather-stripping a door, Creed says a large amount of energy can be saved, which in return helps everyone.

“If a client uses less energy, then the power company will generate less energy,” he says. “This, in turn, cuts down on pollution and reduces our dependence on foreign energy sources.”

With PWC’s average client earning less than $13,000 a year, it gives money back to people who could really use it.

“Lower-income people are spending a higher percentage of their income on energy costs than higher-income people,” Creed says. “So services like this are a really big help.”

Client Gene Napier would agree with that statement. Napier says she doesn’t have enough words to describe how thankful she is for having her home weatherized by PWC.

“They were very prompt and polite,” Napier says. “They checked everything in my home, and were very thorough and efficient.”

Among the items inspected were the furnace, refrigerator, all windows and virtually every crevice of her home in-between.

Living in a trailer in Boone County, Ky., Napier is a retired school teacher who has fallen on hard times since retiring a few years ago. 

“After I retired, my income dropped,” she says. “Even though I am retired, I still have bills I have to pay, and I struggle and stress about them.”

Last winter Napier received a gas and electric bill totaling about $200. 

“I kept trying to figure out ways to keep the bill down, but no matter what I did, I could not do it,” she says. “It just seemed like my energy costs just kept rising and rising.”

With PWC’s recent weatherization services, Napier is hopeful this winter she will see a reduction.

Some of the things PWC did included replacing her old refrigerator with a newer, more energy efficient one, putting insulation under her trailer and giving her a carbon monoxide detector.

“It felt like it was birthday gift,” she says. “They really came through for me and for that, I am delighted.”

In addition to weatherization, other services the organization provides include non-cosmetic home repairs like fixing leaking hot water heaters, solving lack of heat issues and correcting electrical hazards.

Another service is their modification and mobility service. This service helps low-income, disabled clients maintain their mobility and independence by building handicapped-accessible ramps, bathroom modifications and grab bars.

Also, the organization provides several services for elderly people, including two different events each year that help them prepare their homes for the spring and fall.

At Repair Affair, volunteers go to the homes of PWC clients and 

repair items in their home; volunteers do everything from carpentry to plumbing to structural work. Recently, the group hosted Prepare Affair, where more than 3,000 volunteers pitched in to prepare the homes of elderly clients for winter.

“Volunteers raked leaves, cleaned out gutters and helped put items away,” says Sara Bourgeois, volunteer program manager for PWC. “It was easy home maintenance stuff that needed to get done because these homeowners could not do it themselves.”

Most of the clients who utilize these services have no one else to help them, Bourgeois adds.

“Most people don’t like to ask for help, but these people cannot afford to pay someone to do these tasks,” she says. “If we did not do it, no one else would.” ©

To volunteer, donate or learn more about PWC, visit www.pwchomerepairs.org.