Volunteers make warmer winter for military veterans
Fairfield military veteran Stephen Beets had more than one way to tell if spring was on its way up until recently.
A family of groundhogs living in his basement could not only provide a first-account shadow test, but the many holes they burrowed into his house left him the first to feel any shift in climate.
All that changed when a team of volunteers visited Beets’ home Oct. 20 caulking windows, weather-stripping, installing door sweeps and sealing cracks in their path. The event was the third year the Fairfield Volunteer Center has held a weatherization blitz in the fall to help residents save on their energy bill and stay warm in the winter. Two months later, Beets said his home is noticeably cozier.
“I noticed it right away,” said Beets. “It did make a difference.”
And with cold weather setting in, he said he no longer has to worry about the pipes in his basement freezing.
“The most important work they did was downstairs,” he said, “there was a male and female groundhog digging up my basement … they scared them off.”
According to Fairfield sustainability coordinator Scott Timm, it was not unusual for this year’s group of volunteers to go beyond the call of duty. While Timm was responsible for training volunteers in weatherization basics, in several homes they took the work further, repairing sections of wall, roof and foundation.
“It got a little hairy,” he said. “They had to make the decision, ‘Do we go for it or not? And they said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
Timm said he had volunteers to thank such as John Loin, who owns a construction business, for having the skill set to tackle the work. Loin went to the home of Jason Crandall, who is a chaplain in the army. Crandall’s wife and children helped Loin replace an entire window and section of wall, which had extensive water damage from a leaking roof.
“They were very appreciative,” said Loin.
While Timm is involved with many sustainability workshops as part of the Alliant Hometown Rewards Program for Fairfield, he said he found the weatherization blitz most inspiring.
“It is one of my favorites,” he said. “You get to really help people out.”
Approximately 50 volunteers assisted Beets and 11 other U.S. military veterans living in Fairfield. The Home Depot Foundation awarded the volunteer center a Celebration of Service Grant to help pay for supplies to weatherize area veterans’ homes.
Timm said pulling from all of Fairfield’s resources has made such projects possible.
“We use a patchwork of resources and groups,” said Timm.
Volunteers included members of the Fairfield Rotary Club, city council, First Lutheran Church, as well as Hy-Vee Food and Drug Store staff and students from Fairfield High School and Maharishi University of Management.
Beets was struck by the diversity of people who came to his home to help out.
“Some of the volunteers who were helping out were people who owned businesses,” said Beets. “It was really nice.”
Timm said 23 veterans applied for the program through the center, but not everyone felt comfortable accepting help from volunteers.
“I would have liked to have had more,” he said.
The center had enough supplies to weatherize 20 homes, so during his next workshop he invited the veterans to come learn how to do their own weatherization work.
“There were two ways we helped veterans, through volunteer groups and through the workshops,” said Fairfield Volunteer Center president, Elaine Hughes.
After three years of work, Timm said he’s built a strong core of volunteers with the skill set to make significant changes in Fairfield.
“There are 200 people in town now who have been trained in how to weatherize homes,” he said.