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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 19, 2018

Green Iowa to close Fairfield branch

Group dedicated to improving energy-efficiency, will open branch in Davenport
By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Aug 10, 2018
Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo Members of the Fairfield branch of Green Iowa Americorps, from left, Mary Braasch, Kathleen Reed and Charlie Hutchings partner with Paula Armstrong of the Fairfield Beautification Commission to clean up Heritage Courtyard near the intersection of West Burlington Avenue and North Second Street. Green Iowa Americorps announced that it will close its Fairfield office in September.

Green Iowa Americorps has announced that it plans to close its Fairfield branch in early September.

Fairfield has had a Green Iowa Americorps office since 2014 thanks to host Maharishi University of Management.

Green Iowa program director Ashley Craft said the organization feels it has done great work in Fairfield during the past four years, but now other cities need help more than Fairfield. The group plans to open a branch in Davenport shortly after it closes its office here.

Green Iowa’s mission is improving energy efficiency through a series of programs that include home energy audits, free materials and labor to weatherize homes, and energy-related educational programs.

 

Early days

Lonnie Gamble is an assistant professor in the Sustainable Living Department at M.U.M. and one of the department’s founding faculty members. Green Iowa Americorps had worked closely with the Sustainable Living Department on projects, and had toured the town’s tiny houses, before opening the Fairfield chapter four years ago.

Green Iowa Americorps started in 2008 in response to the flooding in Cedar Falls. The organization began in the Center for Energy & Environmental Education at the University of Northern Iowa.

“The floods impacted so many houses and displaced low-income people,” Craft said. “It brought the impact of climate change to the forefront and made us focus on the environment.”

 

Expansion

The organization branched out from its original Cedar Falls office into other big cities in the state. It now has chapters in six other locations: Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, Iowa City, Decorah, and for one more month, Fairfield.

Craft said Fairfield residents are proactive in energy conservation and have many sustainability initiatives available to them.

“They’re already engaged, already educated and already making sustainable choices,” she said. “As we look to expand to new locations, we feel confident Fairfield will still make great strides in sustainability and environmental education.”

 

Programs

Improving residential energy efficiency is one of the group’s top priorities. It starts with a home energy audit, which tells volunteers where heat is escaping. The next step is weatherization, which involves caulking around windows, installing weather strips on door frames, insulating the attic, insulating hot and cold water pipes with foam sleeves, replacing old lightbulbs with efficient Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) and using low-flow sink and shower heads.

Another prong in the group’s approach is environmental education. It does 50-60 programs per site every year.

Mary Braasch is Fairfield’s education coordinator, and has taught school children the value of sustainability. She’s done programs with seniors, too, such as hosting “green bingo” at the Fairfield Senior Citizen Center.

Fairfield volunteers Kathleen Reed and Charlie Hutchings said Green Iowa has given away plants to kids at the farmers market, and distributed pamphlets at public events such as Fairfield First Fridays. Braasch even dressed up as a flower as part of a program on bees.

 

Move to Quad Cities

Craft said the decision to close Fairfield’s office is not related to a drop in users or anything of that sort. She said it has more to do with the fact that as the group audits and weatherizes houses, over time it runs out of houses to do. Meanwhile, other cities that are much bigger than Fairfield are being neglected.

“We have wanted to expand to the Quad Cities for some time because of the age of its housing stock and because of its low-income demographics,” Craft said.

So far, the organization has chapters in only central and eastern Iowa, but that will change in 2019 when it opens a branch in Milford near Lake Okoboji.

Green Iowa Americorps is funed through many sources, the largest of which is a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service. It also receives funds from state utilities and host partners.

Fairfield residents who wish to carry on Green Iowa’s mission after it leaves are urged to reach out to Sieda Community Action, which serves Jefferson County from its Ottumwa location, and can be reached at 641-682-8741. Craft also recommends getting involved in programs through M.U.M.’s Sustainable Living Department at www.mum.edu.

 

Comments (2)
Posted by: Aaron Phillips | Aug 14, 2018 10:08

Sorry to see it go; I've enjoyed a working relationship with Green Iowa Americorps and my RSVP senior volunteer organization since 2015, with a couple of us volunteers on board each year primarily to plant trees.  I've also enjoyed quite a few of the education programs they hosted in the SL building on MUM campus.  And my son appreciated, I'm sure, the employment opportunity!  You will be missed!  Best wishes for success in Davenport.



Posted by: Aaron Phillips | Aug 14, 2018 10:15

(I should identify myself in that last post.  It says, "Post by Aaron Phillips," who actually is our director in Ottumwa for United Way.  I'm John Miller, RSVP Jefferson County coordinator in Fairfield.)



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