Category Archives: Residential Programs



Good News for Oakland Home Repair

 

Community Energy Services Corporation is pleased to announce that the Callison Foundation and the Wells Fargo Foundation have made new grants in support of CESC’s Oakland Home Repair program for 2017. The Oakland Home Repair Program brings needed home repair services to Oakland seniors. Several individual donors also gave in support of the program in 2017, and the Partnership Foundation, a current funder, also renewed its support.

In Alameda County, 45,000 housing units have moderate to severe physical problems (Alameda County Healthy Homes Department). Many Oakland residents lack the knowledge, strength or resources to make needed repairs or to hire a contractor to do the work, especially seniors on fixed incomes who may additionally be wary of strangers coming to their homes.  According to the Alameda County Community Development Agency, “As the number of seniors living in substandard conditions continues to climb in the City of Oakland it is imperative that we address the need for seniors to age in place.” Maricela Foster, Director of the agency, calls CESC’s Oakland Home Repair program an “exceedingly needed service.”

Oakland Construction Tech Jesús Ávila prepares for a kitchen repair

Served by a skilled and seasoned home repair team, the program made health and safety repairs for 17 senior households in 2015 and 12 in 2016 for a total of several hundred individual repairs. Repairs can include most types of plumbing, electrical and carpentry repairs, furnace and minor roof repairs, and the installation of safety features such as grab bars, handrails, and ramps.

“Oakland Home Repair is one of my favorite programs because I love to see seniors in my neighborhood getting the help they need for the home that they have worked so hard for,” says Program Assistant Jennifer Robles. Are you an Oakland senior who needs help with repairs? Contact Jennifer today to find out how to enroll in the Oakland Home Repair program.

Email: jennifer@ebenergy.org

CESC Supports Green-Collar Jobs, Part Two

Last week, we told you a bit about the role Community Energy Services Corporation plays in workforce development locally, and we profiled Bill Pittman, former construction intern with CESC’s Family Sustainability Project. The Family Sustainability Project has two parts: it helps low-income North Richmond residents through home renovation and other asthma environmental remediation services, and it brings workforce development to that neighborhood through internships. Over the past three years, twelve interns from North Richmond have worked alongside CESC staff to bring these asthma environmental remediation services to North Richmond. Along the way, they have acquired new skills while getting paid, received job-seeking support, and came away with a laptop computer.

Family Sustainability Project Intern Spotlight
In the summer of 2016, intern Anthony Williams of Richmond had just graduated with an AA degree in business administration from Contra Costa College when he heard about the opportunity for a paid administrative internship with CESC’s Family Sustainability Project. Anthony was interested in building up his admin skills.

CESC Administrative Intern Anthony Williams

CESC Administrative Intern Anthony Williams

As a CESC intern Anthony has gained those admin skills, and then some. He has learned the database for CESC’s residential programs, provided customer follow-up via letters and calls, and assisted in other clerical duties including filing and organizing. He’s pleased that he has beefed up his software skills. He’s learned most of Microsoft Office, especially Excel. He has also done client outreach, attended outreach events, and learned office etiquette.

Now 26 years old, Anthony started community college in Vallejo right after high school, but he was unmotivated and dropped out.  Anthony then had a number of part-time retail jobs, working at places like Walmart, Target, Starbucks, and Macy’s. He usually had at least two jobs at one time. Sometimes his work day went from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. This situation was highly motivating for him. He knew he had to get an education if he wanted a better work situation. He moved to Richmond and enrolled in Contra Costa College, where he got an introduction to business, office skills, and how to work with people and groups.

Anthony was thrilled to get a paid internship after graduating, and he admits that it isn’t what he thought it would be. “I thought an internship would be unpaid. I thought I’d have to fetch coffee for the boss and water for the dogs. Instead, I feel like I’m one of the team here.” Since his internship is part time, it allows him to take classes at San Francisco State University, where he hopes to get a B.S. degree in management.

While he’s happy about the skills he is gaining in his internship, he loves the overall purpose of the organization (Anthony is featured in a video about working at CESC). He likes that CESC is helping low-income people get safer and healthier homes and save energy.

“I also like the management here and everyone we work with,” a situation that he admits tends to be uncommon. “Managers are very flexible and understanding. They act as mentors or coaches. If you have a problem, they’ll be with you every step of the way to help you solve the problem. And what you do doesn’t go unseen. The management here definitely let you know that what you’re doing is appreciated.”

Anthony hopes to continue in nonprofit work, ideally at CESC if an opportunity comes up. Do you want to learn more about CESC? check us out at ebenergy.org.

 

CESC Supports Green-Collar Jobs

Businesses need a trained workforce, and local residents need jobs. Community Energy Services Corporation (CESC) has an important role to play locally in bringing jobs—and training for good jobs—to people in the community. For over 10 years, CESC has had programs offering paid internships in the energy efficiency and home repair fields to people starting out or starting over.

Take for example CESC’s Family Sustainability Project in North Richmond. For the past three years, a total of twelve interns from that community have taken part in paid internships working alongside CESC staff members to help low-income North Richmond residents through home renovation and other asthma environmental remediation services.

Workforce development organizations like CESC partner Rising Sun Energy Center can help people remove barriers to employment and acquire skills that can get them their first job. CESC’s role is in the next step; CESC helps people go a bit further. According to Executive Director Martin Bond, “Many staff members have been hired from green workforce development programs at Laney College or Rising Sun.” The next step is to provide interns and new employees opportunities for on-the-job training for various marketable skills. You can become LEED-certified, you can become an energy manager, you can become a building operator, you can go into the trades with a focus on energy efficiency, or you can learn electrician or general contractor skills. You can learn not just how to install energy efficiency products, but also how to verify savings. You can learn about building shells, insulation, air sealing, or HVAC. These are skills that can lead into good-paying jobs.

Past interns at CESC have gone on to full-time jobs elsewhere, sometimes even at CESC itself, and sometimes internships clarify educational goals for people. CESC provides interns support in getting the next job or applying to school. Of the eleven interns in the Family Sustainability Project, five now have full-time jobs in the area, and four have gone on to college.

Family Sustainability Project: Intern Spotlight

CESC Construction Technician Bill Pittman

Former intern (and now employee) Bill Pittman of Richmond first heard about an opportunity for a paid internship in construction with CESC when a cousin told him about it in 2015. At the time, he had been unemployed for two years and was getting by doing odd jobs landscaping and other things. Bill, 52, is a high school graduate, but he wasn’t making it. He felt discouraged and worried that because he had been getting older and was “down so long” that he might never get up. He was homeless, he was couch surfing, and he wanted a steady job. So he applied for the internship, and he was accepted.

As a construction intern with CESC’s Family Sustainability Project, which combines a health and safety home repair program benefiting North Richmond with a workforce development program in the same neighborhood, Bill gained hands-on experience with plumbing repairs, carpet removal and hardwood floor installation, general carpentry, and house painting.

At first, Bill made it to work every day catching the bus from North Richmond. At the time, he had neither a driver’s license nor a car. After four months, CESC was so impressed with Bill’s progress and positive attitude that they offered him a full-time job as a construction technician, and he gladly accepted. Now he drives to work every day in his own car and has a real home in Richmond.

Since his internship days, he has continued to acquire new skills. He has learned how to install gas appliances and test them for carbon monoxide, how to test heating duct systems for leaks and how to repair them, how to install plumbing fixtures such as toilets, and how to interact with clients. His current goal is to continue to gain additional plumbing skills and to improve in all aspects of the job.

Bill now spends most of his time working with clients of Residential Energy Efficiency Services. Sometimes he also helps Jesús Ávila with the Home Repair program, the work he likes to do most because he loves helping the elderly. It makes him feel good. And “Jesús is a great mentor; he has taught me a lot.” Bill also has a lot of positive things to say about his training and his current supervision. “We have some outstanding bosses. They help you in all kinds of ways. The bosses here are patient and understanding. They work with you if you have a special situation.”

Bill is immensely grateful for the opportunity he has found at CESC to rejoin the workforce. After being down so long, he says that “now I feel that I can go a little higher.” He loves that he now has a home and a car and can afford doing things with his children and grandchildren.

Look for a spotlight on intern Anthony Williams next week.

 

New Year’s Resolution: Earthquake Home Safety

By Janet Stephens

Are you worried about your family’s safety during an earthquake? You’re not alone. Earlier this year, I was inspired by Martin Bond’s blog about the “big one” to start thinking about what more I could do to stay safe during an earthquake. Ten years ago, I had my home bolted and braced, and I added shear wall in two rooms, since we were renovating anyway. Those were the right things to do to reduce the risk of major damage to the home itself, but what about its contents–mainly, me, my husband, and our cats?

go-bucket-image-1I promised my husband I would set up an emergency survival kit with water, food, and some first aid supplies. That was three months ago, and I haven’t gotten started yet. Until today, that is. I knew that I needed to break the task of earthquake preparation into smaller chunks. So I downloaded a document called “Preparing the Home Activity Guide” from the City of Berkeley web site, which has eight different activities to make a home safer in a disaster.

The first activity I am going to tackle is #2, “Put a flashlight and a pair of shoes where each person sleeps.” We have several flashlights, and it will be easy to put a flashlight in the top drawer of my night stand. It’s a simple measure that will take me just a few minutes. I’m aiming to take one measure each day between now and the New Year.

I can also already check off activity #7, “Inspect your water heater.” I know that our heater is already strapped to the wall, a measure that was required during our home renovation.

I think the most difficult measure for me is going to be #6, “Remove falling hazards over beds and play areas.” I heard that falling hazards are the biggest cause of injury during an earthquake. We have eight-foot-tall bookshelves in several rooms, and I know they’re not attached to the wall. I’m a klutz with a hammer or screwdriver. Luckily, my husband is very handy, and he can help with this. But what about those families that lack a handy person?

bookshelf-safetyThe answer: Berkeley Seismic Safety services from Community Energy Services (CESC). A licensed contractor, CESC can provide you with all the services you need to make your home safe in an earthquake. A small grant from PG&E and the City of Berkeley’s Fire Department are helping CESC offer these services free to Berkeley households, whether they are renters or owners. “Preparing your home for an earthquake could prevent many injuries and should be a part of every household’s plan. Through the City’s Berkeley Ready program, we’re partnering with our community to look at potential hazards in the home and to mitigate those before an earthquake,” according to David Brannigan, Deputy Fire Chief.

The program includes a preliminary assessment; a “go bucket” or emergency kit containing a fire extinguisher, emergency rechargeable flashlight, an emergency radio, and other items, a strong educational component including educational materials, and seismic safety upgrades such as securing large furniture, book cases, water heaters, and picture frames and mirrors to the wall.

The program will be able to serve about ten households without charge. If you’re not among the first 10 households to qualify for free services, you can still pay a reasonable fee and have the security of knowing you’re hiring experts to help make your home safe.

And that earthquake survival kit I promised my husband? I don’t think that will take very long. According to the Preparing the Home Activity Guide, I already have most of the supplies on hand; I just need to gather them and put them in an old backpack or bucket. Some of the items are a surprise: copies of important documents, photocopies of prescriptions, an extra pair of eyeglasses. I’m glad I downloaded the document.

Want to know more about the Seismic Safety Services and how you can get help preparing? Contact CESC.

#Giving Tuesday

Dear CESC Community Member,

giving-tuesday-mash-upDiscouraged with the focus on consumerism of this time of year? Join the movement of #GivingTuesday. Instead of buying things, take this opportunity to become aware of the needs of others and, if you have the resources, to make a donation to a cause or an organization.

Low-income seniors are among those with the greatest needs. Everyone deserves a safe and healthy home, yet in Alameda County, 45,000 homes have moderate to severe physical problems. Many residents lack the knowledge, strength or resources to make needed repairs, especially seniors on fixed incomes who may additionally be wary of strangers coming to their homes. The result is unsafe structures that are dangerous to live in. CESC’s Home Repair Program makes homes safer and healthier for seniors who are having a hard time keeping up with repairs. It provides critical health and safety home repairs for low-income seniors at no charge. This program is a strategic intervention for seniors that helps create safe, healthy housing, making clients more resilient.

Help us serve more low-income seniors in 2017 with a donation, large or small. Your generous gift increases the number of households we are able to reach and helps Oakland seniors take care of their homes for their continued health and safety, peace of mind, and dignity.

We also welcome donations to support our general mission to promote resource conservation and safety by providing building improvements and education where the Bay Area lives and works. Our vision is a community living and working in safe, efficient buildings and empowered to conserve energy and other resources.

Thank you for being a part of our community and for thinking about the neediest among us this #GivingTuesday.

Warmest regards,

Martin Bond

CESC Executive Director

Message from a Director

By Ann Gressani, CESC Board Member

 

ann-gressani-blogMy relationship with Community Energy Services Corporation (CESC) began in 2011 in the course of doing homework for my “day job” as an advocate for energy efficiency in low-income housing. I fell in love with the folks and mission here and have been pitching in ever since.

It all started when I was asked to work with a non-profit organization serving owners and tenants of low-income housing. They asked me to help them improve regulations governing the state’s Energy Savings Assistance Program (ESAP), which provides energy efficiency to low-income Californians. They were hearing from low-income tenants living in apartments that the program was not meeting their needs. For example, upgrades of major appliances such as efficient furnaces and hot water heaters that are available to homeowners in the program were not available for renters. I came to CESC to find out more.

Although I have a long track record of working with state energy policy and government regulations, I really did not know how energy-efficiency retrofits were accomplished in homes—the kind of work done by the residential programs of CESC. In fact, I was a legislative staffer to the California Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee in the 1980s and worked on drafting the original legislation that created the ESAP program. Yet the program has been through many changes since then.

I found out that a former colleague, Kim Malcolm, who had worked at the CPUC when I was at the Legislature, was the director of an organization that helped low-income folks with energy efficiency and home repair, CESC. I looked her up to find out more about the energy efficiency program and what it’s like on the delivery end. I met her at the office and we went out to lunch.

Kim explained that CESC was involved in implementing a vast array of programs sponsored by local, state and federal governments as well as private grants and donations. By the end of the lunch, I realized that the needs of low-income residents, and the programs designed to serve them, were much greater than I had imagined. Though I came to the lunch thinking I might just get some quick assistance with my work project, I came away feeling like CESC was a place where I could make a contribution, too. Kim invited me to join the board of directors, and I have been lucky enough to continue with our current executive director, Martin Bond, serving for about five years.  

gressani-quote-blogMost of the CESC board members have been involved for a long time. They bring expertise from a variety of fields; we have accountants, lawyers, and energy specialists. One way I contribute is to keep the CESC board of directors informed about what’s going on at the state agencies governing energy efficiency programs. In return, as an advocate, I’ve learned from CESC what kind of reforms would create better services for the communities we serve and make the energy-efficiency programs more efficient.

The work of CESC is vital to the well-being of many of our neighbors here in the East Bay. Energy costs are the second greatest expense for most low-income households, and California has one of the highest retail energy costs in the nation, which is a unique burden on those who are earning less. CESC is a well-managed organization that has the ability to coordinate implementation of various programs to meet the particular needs of each household. Every home has different energy-consuming and -wasting features, and every consumer has different energy practices, so it really takes a customized and whole-building approach to serve as many needs as possible in one series of visits. CESC’s ability to do that is unique.

CESC’s employees are the greatest asset of the organization, many of whom have been with the organization for a really long time. In addition to practical technical skills, they have human relation skills that are essential when going into the homes of our clients. CESC employees are very patient with clients and explain things in layman’s terms and try to accommodate the client’s preferences and schedules as best as the can. CESC staff spend time working with the clients in advance of the visit, during the visit, and after the visit, to do whatever needs to be done to do the job right.

This year I have been invited to a few CESC staff meetings. I came out of these meetings inspired by the passion and enthusiasm of our employees. Everyone is paying attention to great customer service and maximizing customer benefits. I saw our folks looking for every opportunity to give all that we have to give and to meet the needs of our clients. That strikes me as a unique organization, one where every employee is ALL IN!

If you are interested in learning more about CESC or volunteering your time as a board member (http://ebenergy.org/careers/careers-board-member/) reach out to CESC’s Executive Director Martin Bond at Martin @ ebenergy.org.

The Carpet Was Making My Asthma Worse

Did you know that carpets can make someone’s asthma symptoms worse? Asthma sufferer and Richmond resident Dessie Miller, 75, found that out after receiving a visit from CESC.

Hear Dessie in her own words in CESC’s new video.

Earlier this year, when Dessie enrolled in CESC’s Home Repair Program, she hoped to get help with minor health and safety repairs in her home. But thanks to support from Contra Costa County, Kaiser Permanente, and Chevron, CESC was also able to bring her services and education focused on improving indoor air quality for those who suffer from asthma. Through the Healthy Homes Program, CESC inspects a client’s home for sources of asthma irritants and makes upgrades to improve indoor air quality.

 Hard-surface flooring is a good choice for those with asthma because it’s easy to clean and harbors fewer allergens

Hard-surface flooring is a good choice for those with asthma because it’s easy to clean and harbors fewer allergens.

When CESC visited her home, Dessie learned about items that can cause poor air quality, including her old carpet. CESC ripped out the carpet and installed a hardwood floor, which helps her breathe easier. “They gave me a hardwood floor in my bedroom, because the carpet was making my asthma worse . . . I don’t cough as much, so I’m thankful for that more than anything because I can sleep better at night.”

CESC repaired an exterior vent and installed smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and provided other allergen and environmental treatments in addition to installing new hardwood floors. When CESC performs a Healthy Homes visit, technicians look for mold, sources of moisture that can cause mold, peeling paint, possible asbestos, pet dander, pests (or items that might attract pests), pesticides, poor ventilation, and poorly functioning stoves or heaters. Solutions might include vacuuming with an HEPA filter, removing asbestos, installing filters in the heating system, repainting walls, removing items that attract pests, or fixing leaks.

A big part of the program is education. CESC also provided personal education to Dessie about ways to reduce asthma irritants in the home and to understand the improvements CESC was making at every step of the way.

Learn more about how CESC helped Dessie in our latest video about our residential programs.

Watch the premiere of this video and support CESC’s residential programs at our event Rock the Warehouse later this month.

…and we are all together!

party-flyerAre you a Beatles fan? We’re thrilled to announce that Beatles cover band The Quarry Persons will be playing at this year’s Rock the Warehouse, CESC’s annual benefit party, on Friday, October 21st.

Dance to Beatles music courtesy of The Quarry Persons, munch on dinner from Rico’s taco stand, spin your own margarita on our Rock the Bike blender bike, and, best of all, support the important work of CESC’s home repair program

CESC relies on financial support from our community for these programs that make urgent health and safety repairs in the homes of low-income seniors and other residents. Clients rely on these programs for the peace of mind that safety repairs bring. “I am hoping and praying that they continue to have this program,” said a long-time home repair client.

Mark your calendars and purchase your tickets ahead of time. Tickets are $30 in advance or $40 at the door. Invite your friends via Facebook.

 

Can’t make it? Make a donation instead to support safer and healthier housing for our community.

join-us-on-october-21

 

Living and Working in the Community

Stallard

Outreach Coordinator Robin Stallard appreciates CESC’s strong commitment to improving her community through resource conservation and education.

By Robin Stallard, CESC Outreach Coordinator

Through my role at CESC I have learned that some clients use more electricity than the average customer for reasons not evident at first glance. Some past clients have been suffering from chronic pain, which can be exacerbated by heat, or have thyroid issues requiring constant air conditioning, which invariably impacts their PG&E bill. Many people in these situations are not aware of the various resources available to them. Low-income customers not only qualify in most cases for utility-funded energy efficiency programs; they can also benefit from a direct utility bill discount (the CARE Program is available to both PG&E customers and MCE customers) or discounts related to medical conditions and equipment (the Medical Baseline Program).

I joined CESC in 2014 as the outreach coordinator for all CESC’s programs, and I quickly found my niche in the downstairs office, supporting the many residential programs CESC provides, such as the Residential Energy Efficiency Services and Home Repair Programs. Through CESC, I can help people in my community to have healthier and safer homes.

Along with Program Assistant Jen Robles, I assist our clients with enrollment documents, verify income information, schedule assessments and installations, and handle issues for our clients. We handle most client interactions over the phone or via email, yet because we serve an older client base who might not have access to email, sometimes site visits are necessary so we can assist clients with filling out the forms in person.  While I consider myself a bit of an introvert, I have found one of my favorite aspects of this job is the conversations with our clients when I am performing home assessments. Generally these visits are strictly business, and I am always moved when clients open up and we can have meaningful conversations about issues they are facing and what brought them to contact CESC for assistance. They may be in the middle of a health crisis, recently lost a job, or even a spouse, and they are looking to lighten their financial burden. In some cases it is humbling for them to be taking advantage of our programs, and while these conversations can be difficult to have, it is rewarding for me to know we are available to help these clients in difficult times.

5 tips

I also serve as an energy specialist. In this role I qualify clients for the Energy Savings Assistance Program and perform home energy assessments. I enjoy this meeting with our clients, and I do get a better sense of what motivated them to enroll in our programs. Some clients are only interested in saving money, and some have a strong commitment to energy conservation; I find most clients want to be more responsible energy users and are grateful for the information we provide during the assessment and subsequent weatherization work. I am thrilled when a client gets excited about a tip or suggestion we offer to save them money and energy. For example, most of our clients perk up when we tell them about the energy efficient power strips provided through our weatherization programs. While weatherization is beneficial, it isn’t exactly exhilarating, and clients are always interested to learn about new technology.

Other people seek out our programs because they are facing hardships and are looking for ways to lower their bills or get help with a situation in which they have no other option. For example, clients contact us when their water heaters or furnaces break and they are unable to handle the repairs themselves, or they can’t afford to hire a contractor. Where it is permitted by the program guidelines, I work on behalf of these clients to help expedite the necessary repairs. We also work with and receive referrals from other agencies and organizations—such as in-home care services— to provide home repair services to their active clients. A benefit of CESC’s offering multiple programs across three counties is if we can’t help a client under one program, we can usually provide assistance under another.

I graduated with a degree in Environmental Science from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, and for three years I worked for an environmental consulting firm in New York. I realized I was no longer drawn to the technical side of the industry and looked to transition to the non-profit sector. After a stint volunteering for an environmental education center in Costa Rica, I spent three years conducting customer outreach and education for a non-profit organization in Philadelphia that offered market-rate programs in energy efficiency. After nearly ten years on the east coast, when I returned to California and moved to Berkeley, I wanted to continue working for a community-based organization. I like that CESC has such a strong commitment and history of bettering the greater Berkeley community through resource conservation and education. I recently moved to Richmond and I’m glad I can continue to contribute to my neighborhood through my work.

I want to get the word about our programs to more people. Could you or someone you know benefit from our residential programs? Sign up for our newsletter to learn more about our programs or contact CESC.

The Value of Safety

Since CESC is a community-based organization, how we go about our work is just as important as what we do. This is why safety is one of CESC’s core values:

Just as we seek to make homes and workplace buildings safe, we also set a high standard of safety for employees and partners at work sites.

Safety is about respect: respect for our staff, our clients, and the communities we serve.

Safety is key to keeping our staff healthy.

OSHA Safety classRecently, seven of our staff members completed an OSHA safety course called OSHA 10. The 10 stands for ten hours of coursework, spread over two days. The OSHA 10 training program for entry-level construction workers raises general awareness of hazards on a construction site and provides training on recognizing and preventing hazards.

Additionally, all of our field staff have taken an online ladder safety course. CESC staff members have to climb a few ladders when we are saving the world one light bulb at a time!

Even CESC’s construction manager is receiving additional training; last week he returned from the more advanced OSHA 30 training. At CESC, we do not view these hours as lost work time; instead, we have gained better-trained and safer employees. CESC believes well-trained staff members will provide higher quality work and will stay with the organization longer.

Safety MattSafety is a full-time job

A big part of OSHA 10 is promoting a culture of safety through peer training. Those in the class learned how to support their peers in the field to be safe, asking each other to always wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and to stop work when an unsafe condition arises. Construction supervisors cannot be on every job and must rely on a strong culture of safety.

Safety is important for our clients

CESC’s residential programs help vulnerable members of our community improve their homes so they can live in healthier and safer housing. Our construction technicians handle plumbing issues, repair broken doors and windows, keep cold air and rain out through weatherization measures, and install grab bars and stair rails for safety. These measures help the most vulnerable members of our community to stay in their homes longer and to live healthier lives.

Safety is important in our community

CESC offers the Seismic Safety program to help our residents with safety measures such as securing shelves and pictures to walls to keep them from falling in an earthquake. CESC helps our local residents and businesses become more energy-independent so they can recover more quickly from an emergency. A safer community is a more resilient community.

Do you want to learn more about what you can do to make your home safer? Contact CESC today!