Volunteers weatherize houses in honor of MLK


Volunteers meet at the Islamic Center of Bloomington to prepare for a day of weatherizing houses. The project was funded with a grant from the Bloomington Martin Luther King Jr. Commission. Annie Garau and Annie Garau

While snow swirled outside the windows of the Islamic Center in Bloomington, high schoolers, fraternity brothers, families, professors and members of various volunteer groups from throughout the city prepared to help Bloomington residents 
stay warm.

As a part of the Monroe County Energy Challenge and with funding from Bloomington’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, volunteers spread out across the city Sunday performing simple weatherization tasks for those in need.

“It’s something simple and that anybody can do, and it makes a big difference,” said Tamar Moss, a high school junior and member of the Interfaith Community of Environmentalist Youth. “Especially when it’s on a large scale like this, it saves a lot of energy.”

Forty-three homeowners requested help from the volunteer teams. Some of the requests came from the elderly, some with disabilities and others from people who were simply curious about how they can save more energy.

“A lot of the people who have been reaching out to us are people who really, really need it,” Ashley Koffman, a member of Volunteers for Change, said. “They’re so cold, and they don’t know what to do to keep their houses warm.”

The teenage leaders of the weatherization teams were armed with caulking guns, outlet sealers, water pipe insulation, window insulation and faucet aerators.

They filled in cracks around vents and covered windows with plastic. Simple tasks like these can save an average of 10 to 20 percent of a household’s energy bill, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“I’m not a professional or anything, but I learned how to do these tasks last year, and I was surprised at how easy it was,” Koffman said.

In addition to ICEY and Volunteers for Change, the groups included the Bloomington High School South Habitat for Humanity team, a youth group from Congregation Beth Shalom and members of IU’s Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity.

“It’s good to have on Valentine’s Day because I think it’s a loving thing to do, to come together and work together as a community,” said Anne McLaughlin, a Volunteers for Change member who organized the event. “It’s a loving thing to do for our neighbors and a loving thing to do for our Earth.”

It’s also appropriate, McLaughlin said, that they were working in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who once said anybody can serve.

“You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love,” she said.

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