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EOC Energizing Low-Income Families and Communities

Written by Peggy Hofstra | August 13, 2016

Energy Outreach Colorado's work on behalf of low-income energy consumers helps thousands of individuals and families, including residents of affordable housing communities, and dedicated non-profits that support these Coloradans.

We offer energy efficiency grants to improve buildings owned by nonprofits and affordable housing communities, as well as provide energy bill payment assistance and emergency furnace repair for low-income households. We efficiently provide these services through a statewide network of partner nonprofits, vendors, contractors and funders.

For example, our Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Program (NEEP) offers grants to install energy efficient equipment in buildings owned by nonprofits serving low-income communities. Participating organizations benefit from lower energy costs so they can allocate more of their operating budget to serve clients.

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Pictured at top, Nathan Anderson from Developmental Disabilities Resource Center talks about the brighter and more efficient lighting in the therapy pool area.

Below, Brooke Pike, NEEP project manager, and Nathan show one of the new appliances installed to save on energy costs.

 

NEEP recently completed a project at the Developmental Disabilities Resource Center's facility in Arvada, a site that provides services such as a warm water therapy pool to individuals with special needs. The installation of new energy equipment is expected to save $12,800 annually in energy costs. Improvements include interior and exterior lighting, appliances, a boiler and heat exchanger, insulation and low-flow water aerators. Xcel Energy and EOC helped fund the $117,000 project.

"The upgraded lighting in our warm water therapy pool has received some of the best responses from our clients," said Nathan Anderson, a DDRC operations manager. "It's great because we're using less energy with fewer but more efficient and bright lights, which is a huge benefit for us."

For more information, contact Brooke Pike, NEEP project manager, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 303-226-5060.

Energy Outreach Colorado Protects Against Heat-Related Dangers

Written by Peggy Hofstra | August 03, 2016

Coloradans who are most vulnerable to summer’s sizzling temperatures -- due to lack of mobility, illness or the inability to pay their home energy bill – are getting relief from Energy Outreach Colorado’s energy bill payment assistance. 

Mark M., a 53-year-old disabled diabetic from Denver, received help on his energy bill a day before his home energy was to be disconnected. He no longer had to worry about how to refrigerate his 90-day supply of insulin, or whether he could afford to turn on the evaporative cooler at night so he could sleep.

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“I survive on Medicare and food stamps,” he said. “I’ve owned the same house for 27 years but it came down to keeping my truck and living in it or selling the house, so I sold my truck. I’ve been riding my bike for four years.”

For Mark and other low-income Coloradans, the heat of summer presents a health danger. If they can’t afford to pay for electricity, and aren’t able to move to a cooler location, they may suffer such illnesses as muscle cramps, heat rash, fainting and heatstroke. Seniors and children are especially vulnerable. Many also rely on electricity-dependent medical devices like oxygen concentrators.

For information about summer energy bill payment assistance, call toll-free 1-866-HEAT-HELP or go to http://www.energyoutreach.org/get-help/paying-your-energy-bill

New EOC Staff Focused on Energy Efficiency for Under-served Communities

Written by Peggy Hofstra | July 27, 2016

We’re pleased to welcome Laura Rickhoff and Hannah Lees to Energy Outreach Colorado. They are joining our mission to make energy efficiency more accessible to lower-income communities.

Laura brings a background in marketing and nonprofit administration to the position of Energy Efficiency Program Assistant. She is committed to advancing sustainable initiatives for local nonprofits and has worked with several state and city programs, including the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment’s Environmental Leadership Program and the City of Denver’s Certifiably Green Denver sustainability program. Laura holds a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Colorado at Boulder and is an avid endurance runner. She will ensure that our nonprofit and multi-family clients receive funding and energy efficiency upgrades so they can better serve their clients and residents. Laura works directly with contractors, organizations and utility providers to ensure projects are completed efficiently.

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Laura Rickhoff

Hannah completed a year with AmeriCorps in Boulder before joining us as Energy Behavior Change Program Assistant. She earned a B.S. in community development and applied economics from the University of Vermont. Hannah enjoys playing the guitar, experimenting with art projects, watching documentaries and comedy and spending time outdoors. She will engage our program participants in maximizing energy savings through our education program by developing action teams, providing energy bill education and collecting data.

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Hannah Lees

EOC Case Study Part of National Clean Energy Savings For All Initiative

Written by Peggy Hofstra | July 21, 2016

 

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The Obama Administration announced this week a new multi-government effort called the Clean Energy Savings For All Initiative. It brings together the Departments of Energy (DOE), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Agriculture (USDA), Health and Human Services (HHS), Veteran’s Affairs (VA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to increase access to solar energy and promote energy efficiency across the country.

The initiative puts particular emphasis on low- and moderate- income communities, and Energy Outreach Colorado is highlighted for its programs to help bring energy efficiency and renewable energy to low-income communities. The goal of the Clean Energy Savings for All Initiative is to ensure that every household has options for choosing to go solar and to establish additional measures to promote energy efficiency.

One of the designated actions to ensure all communities have adequate information to participate in the clean energy economy is to provide resources to bring energy efficiency and renewable energy to low-income communities. The EPA is providing successful case studies to help state and local energy, environmental, housing, and social services agencies, non-profits, and utilities understand ways they bring energy efficiency and renewable energy to low-income communities. An Energy Outreach Colorado case study is one of five currently available on the Current resources available EPA’s website.

For more information go to https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/07/19/fact-sheet-obama-administration-announces-clean-energy-savings-all

 

EOC’s Arnold Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award

Written by Peggy Hofstra | July 15, 2016

Energy Outreach Colorado’s executive director, Skip Arnold, is the 2016 recipient of the national Sister Pat Kelley Achievement Award presented by the National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition.

The prestigious award is presented annually to an affordable energy advocate to recognize significant lifetime achievement in supporting low-income energy assistance and furthering energy policies regarding vulnerable households. The award honors the legacy of Sister Patricia Ann Kelley, a nun with the St. Louis Sisters of Charity order and founder of a national movement to advocate for energy assistance.

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Sr. Kelly established Missouri EnergyCare after a 1980 heat wave in the Midwest led to the death of hundreds of vulnerable people. She also founded the National Fuel Funds Network to further advocate for energy assistance. That organization has since become the National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition (NEUAC). The award was presented at its annual conference in Denver in June.

“We are thrilled to be in Denver this year where advocates such as Skip Arnold have tirelessly stood up for and worked to reduce the energy burden of vulnerable citizens,” said John Rich, NEUAC president. “Mr. Arnold first worked for Public Service Co. of Colorado, then for the past 13years as Energy Outreach Colorado’s executive director, and he exemplifies the work of Sister Pat Kelley.”

Arnold, who accepted the award on behalf of Energy Outreach Colorado’s board and staff, became director of the organization in 2003 after a distinguished career at Public Service Co. culminating in the position of Vice President of Customer Care. He is a past president of the National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition and has served in numerous other state and national organizations supporting affordable energy. 

 

EOC Helps New Mother Endure Unexpected Tragedies

Written by Peggy Hofstra | July 06, 2016

Michelle M. brought a beautiful new life into the world, but then she almost lost her own. 

“After I had Lucy I started feeling sick, and for two years after that I saw a lot of doctors,” Michelle explained. “They thought it was because of hormones from the pregnancy, and the blood work came back fine, so they never diagnosed anything.”

She went back to being a middle school teacher at the Adams County charter school where her husband also worked, but her “episodes” of feeling sick continued. Then she had a major seizure at home in June 2015. Medical tests uncovered a brain tumor. “As I was preparing my will and bucket list and headed into brain surgery, my husband confessed to infidelity,” she said.

Thankfully, the tumor was benign, the surgery was a complete success, and her family stood by her during her month-long hospital stay. She re-learned how to walk, write and read through six weeks of neurological rehabilitation, then tried to return to the classroom in September but had trouble keeping her balance.

With her life still in pieces, Michelle left her teaching job, hired a divorce lawyer, and established shared custody of Lucy. She survived on unemployment and Medicaid benefits while she forged a new path. She moved to an apartment but discovered her ex-husband had left behind an unpaid $700 energy bill in her name that she couldn't afford.

That worry was erased when she received energy bill payment assistance from Energy Outreach Colorado. “I’ve received lots of blessings since all of the tragedies of the past years, and nice people seem to wander in just when I need them,” she said. “I’m finding a whole new way to live. It’s working out. It’s not easy, but I like it.”

Michelle is working as a part-time summer school teacher and will be a substitute teacher this fall before hopefully returning to teaching full time. She’s also volunteering with the American Brain Tumor Association.

“I’m not one to ask for assistance but I still have lots of medical appointments and tests and I’ve learned to be okay with getting help,” she said. “I’m looking forward to speaking out and sharing my experiences to help others. I’m feeling very hopeful at this point.”

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Left, Michelle with daughter Lucy. At right, Michelle with friend Jermaine, one of the many friends and family members who supported her recovery.

 

Take the “Beat the Heat” Challenge

Written by Peggy Hofstra | June 27, 2016

As part of your Fourth of July activities, challenge your family to “beat the heat” and save money on your energy bill. Provide them with this check list of low-cost energy saving tips and once they’ve completed it, celebrate with popsicles all around!

  • Cooking, lighting and using other appliances account for about 30 percent of your home’s energy bill, so using them less saves you money. To cut down on the use of your hot over, get creative and try out some new recipes.  
  • Switch out incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). About 90 percent of the energy used by incandescent bulbs is released in the form of heat, so replacing them with CFLs is cooler. Look for areas where a small lamp can be used instead of a room light and make sure lights are off when not needed.
  • Running the dishwasher and dryer also generates heat. Try operating them only at night and when they are full, and skip the heated drying option on your dishwasher.
  • Another heat producer is your refrigerator. Move it away from the wall and vacuum the condenser coils. If you have more than one refrigerator or freezer, consolidate if you can and unplug any unnecessary appliances.
  • If you need to replace a home appliance, choose the most efficient unit available. An Energy Star® label means it uses at least 10 percent less energy than required by current federal standards.
  • Inspect the filters on your furnace and air conditioner to see if they need to be replaced.  Write a reminder to change filters every three months. 
  • Check your home thermostat. If you have an air conditioner, set the temperature to about 78 degrees. Better yet, install a programmable thermostat to do the work for you.
  • The windows in your main living areas are the largest source of heat gain in your home.  During the day keep them shut and window coverings closed. In the evening, open windows and window coverings to let in cooling breezes.
  • Summer heat also enters your home through leaks around walls, windows and doors. Repair any damaged or loose caulking and weather stripping. Pay special attention to plumbing outlets, vents and recessed light fixtures.
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Skyrocketing rental costs affect home security of Coloradans

Written by Peggy Hofstra | June 20, 2016

Can you imagine spending half of your pre-tax income on rent? That’s what one in four Colorado renters currently are faced with, according to Make Room, a national renters' advocacy campaign. 

A common affordability guideline is that less than 30 percent of a household’s income be used for housing. Yet 182,000 Colorado households are paying much more than that, states Make Room, making Colorado the 26th highest state in the country for percentage of renters who pay more than half of their income on rental housing.

“Many hard-working families living in rentals hold down one or more minimum-wage jobs just to keep up with the skyrocketing costs associated with living in Colorado, and that doesn’t leave much room for them to pay their home energy bills,” said Skip Arnold, executive director at Energy Outreach Colorado, a nonprofit that provides energy bill payment assistance. “We recognize that affordable housing and affordable home energy are interconnected and that a home without energy isn’t livable.”

Energy Outreach Colorado invested more than $10.3 million last year to help 22,524 households avoid having their home energy shut off. EOC also supported Colorado’s Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP), which helped an additional 81,450 households. For more information about EOC’s energy assistance programs, go to energyoutreach.org or call toll-free 1-866-HEAT-HELP (1-866-432-8435).

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Senior's Hardships Eased by Energy Assistance

Written by Peggy Hofstra | June 16, 2016

A steady job. A car. A house. These are the things Lonzo V. dreamed about growing up in Oklahoma. He started working at age 8, cutting weeds. When his family of nine moved to Colorado for better opportunities, he found a job at a vet supply warehouse and worked his way up over the next 17 years, often putting in 80-hour weeks for the overtime.

Lonzo lived his dream for 30 years, until his body wore down from the years of lifting, stairs and ladders. He developed occupational asthma from the long-term exposure to chemicals at the warehouse. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer and suffered lasting consequences from surgery. And, at age 57 he had knee replacement surgery but something went terribly wrong. After a series of X-rays and MRIs, he discovered the wrong-sized replacement had been used and he had to have another surgery to correct it. Again, his leg became swollen “foot to hip” and another doctor told him the second procedure hadn’t been done properly.

After two years of debilitating pain, he could no longer work and the medical bills piled up. “All I dreamed about got shattered,” he said. “It was a nightmare.”

Lonzo’s sister helped him as much as she could with his house payments and he got additional assistance from Denver Urban Matters (DENUM). A caseworker helped him apply for unemployment, disability benefits and energy assistance funding from Energy Outreach Colorado, and his overdue home energy bill recently was paid off.

“I was so happy because there was no way I could catch up, being on a fixed income now,” he said. “I would have been cold. It was a gift from God and I am thankful and really appreciate it.”

Lonzo’s dream these days is to resolve his health issues. “I want to get back to the way it used to be,” he said. 

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Energy assistance helped hardworking Lonzo cope with medical and financial hardship.

 

 

Energy Outreach Colorado in National Top 10 Charities

Written by Peggy Hofstra | June 12, 2016

Energy Outreach Colorado's ongoing work to support affordable home energy for Coloradans has earned it an impressive place on Charity Navigator's national list of "10 Charities with the Most Consecutive 4-Star Ratings."

EOC is the only nonprofit in the West to make the list. Charity Navigator, an independent evaluator of thousands of American charities, ranked Energy Outreach Colorado third in the nation as a non-profit organization that demonstrates ongoing fiscal excellence and is "well-positioned to pursue and achieve long-term change." EOC has received 14 consecutive 4-star ratings from Charity Navigator.

"We are fortunate to have many generous supporters who believe in our mission and make it possible for us to do this important work," said Skip Arnold, EOC's executive director. He added, "Ensuring that families and seniors across all income-levels can afford energy for their homes is a complex and critical mission and we're dedicated to continuously finding better ways to achieve this."

 

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