With meteorologists forecasting the region’s weather first cold front this week punctuated by nightly temperatures hovering near or below freezing, Artic-like winds and the return of snow, preparations for winter have ramped up with greater urgency.
And in a home weatherization program targeting low-income families, senior citizens and veterans, over 200 Washington Gas (WGL) volunteers, employed in support of a customer base which includes those in Virginia, Maryland, the District and West Virginia, braved the cold over the Veterans Day weekend, reaching 100 residences from across the region.
WGL’s annual Day of Weatherization, the company’s signature volunteer initiative, held Saturday, Nov. 9, included President and CEO Adrian Chapman, who, like other employees, replaced his more routine “toolkit” with items more befitting of the day’s tasks: double-sided tape, plastic, blow dryers, air filters, faucet aerators and insulated gloves and boots.
Chapman said by employing just a few simple measures, customers can more efficiently protect their homes from the elements resulting in reduced energy consumption, optimized energy efficiency and lower gas bills.
“We’re committed to the program because in simplest terms, it works,” he said. “As people see their neighbors reaping the benefits, they also want to become included. We want to show families how they can use gas more efficiently through home weatherization projects — the impact can be felt almost immediately resulting in homes becoming warmer while reducing monthly bills and saving money at the same time.”
“We started the program 12 years ago, moving from one jurisdiction to another, beginning with D.C. and moving to Maryland and Virginia in subsequent years. Then, about five years into the program, we made the decision to include all the jurisdictions once a year and on the same day because our employees said they wanted to do it all together.”
“By raising the profile of simple weatherization, we’ve successfully helped our neighbors and our customers save money. Those whom we help tell others — their neighbors — who by word of mouth realize that once armed with a little knowledge, helpful tips and a few low-cost supplies purchased from Lowe’s, they can do their own weatherization projects,” Chapman said.
He also said the weatherization teams this year included veterans who were eager to give back noting that more than 100 vets currently work for the company.
After the full cadre of volunteers gathered at the company’s Southeast station in Prince George’s County shortly after sunrise Saturday for a company rally, exchanging encouraging words and a few well-placed “high-fives,” teams took off for a day of service at designated homes.
“I’m going to be nice and warm this winter and it won’t require me to struggle with or worry about something I’ve faced year after year — higher, monthly gas bills,” said Desiree Parker, a native Washingtonian who has lived in the same house in District Heights for 21 years. She quickly shared the thanks for and pride in the men and who women who have served their country, including her son, Larry — a veteran who served in both Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield before returning home, joining the ranks of other civilians and, like his mother, purchasing a home of his own.
“When we first moved in, our house was always cold — I used to freeze,” she said. “Over the years, I’ve replaced windows, added insulation and even had five fireplaces installed. That helped some. But now, with the upgrades and changes that I’ve received because of the generosity of Washington Gas and its employees, I know it’s going to be cozy and toasty.”
Some homes, Chapman said, came upon the suggestions of employees.
Others, like Parker’s, would be identified through recommendations from various state agencies and community-based organizations, including Operation Renewed Hope Foundation — a local partner with whom WGL worked closely this year. The Foundation selected the homes of veterans or the homes of their immediate families who would benefit from a helping hand — something they’ve been doing since 2012 and which today includes more than 800 homeless veterans and their families in the greater Washington area.
“Our mission is to aid homeless vets and drastically improve their lives. Once we find them a home, we know our work is not over. Programs like Day of Weatherization provide basic yet vital services to warm homes and hearts in winter,” said Deborah Snyder, president and CEO of Operation Renewed Hope Foundation and retired lieutenant colonel.
“WGL has been an outstanding partner and we’re delighted with this year’s focus on members of the military as [we honor our fellow Americans on] Veterans Day,” she said.