News

Honoring Harald's Legacy--May 31 Event Details

Page1 Honoring Haralds Legacy 4

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

On April 2, SEVCA's Weatherization Director, Harald Schmidtke, passed away, having stewarded the program for the past 25 years. Harald showed compassion, integrity, and determination as he worked to achieve SEVCA's mission of reducing the causes and moving toward the elimination of poverty. While we are grieving his loss, we also recognize the importance of celebrating his life and legacy.

Join us at SEVCA's Annual Celebration on May 31, at which we'll honor Harald's lasting contribution to improving the lives of thousands of vulnerable Windham and Windsor County residents as well as the sustainability of our communities.  

Thursday, May 31, 5 - 8 PM
American Legion, Post 67
637 Vermont Route 103 S
Chester, VT

Please click on the link below to RSVP for this event, which we hope will serve as a very special tribute to a much-loved community leader, colleague, and friend. 

http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=clspsnlab&oeidk=a07efcpipo198c21a9f

We request that you RSVP by May 23. A buffet dinner will be served and a cash bar will be available. Dinner is provided at no charge, but donations are encouraged to help defray our costs. Please contact Linda Brooks at (802) 722-4575 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. with any questions or help with registration.

We look forward to seeing many of you on May 31.

Sincerely,

Steve Geller, Executive Director

 

 

Solar Contractor Wanted--RFP Available

Bids Being Accepted for New Solar Array Planned at SEVCA's Westminster Location

SEVCA plans to build, own, and manage an innovative community solar installation, using virtual net metering credits to deliver energy assistance directly to low-income households. This project, Community Solar for Community Action, will demonstrate a new, nationally relevant, scalable model of energy assistance, enabling low-income households to meet their energy needs while supporting the development of renewable energy resources.

Project goals include:

  • Reducing the energy burden of low-income households through applying virtual net metering credits on their electricity bills, based on the energy generated by the solar array.
  • Enabling low-income households to support and benefit from development of renewable sources of energy, thereby participating in the transition to a more sustainable energy economy.
  • Reducing participating low-income households’ dependence on energy assistance by decreasing and stabilizing their energy costs.
  • Contributing to reducing and stabilizing SEVCA’s energy costs for the operation of its main office in Westminster, thereby freeing up scarce resources to use for services.

Solicitation Information

Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) and the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) are soliciting proposals from a qualified contractor to design, procure, deliver, install and maintain a mixed ground‐ and roof‐mounted grid‐tied solar photovoltaic system. The system designed and installed at SEVCA’s headquarters in Westminster shall have capacity of up to 150kWDC, given site and other constraints identified herein.


Submission details

Deadline: Electronic bids will be accepted until 4:00pm EST, Friday, May 25, 2018.

How to respond: Electronic bids must contain the following language in the subject line: ELECTRONIC BID – SEVCA CS4CA and must be submitted to the following email address: BJ Allen This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Specifications

Project specifications are available from BJ Allen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Questions concerning this solicitation may be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. no later than Noon, Thursday May 17, 2018. All questions and answers will be emailed to every entity that asks for project specifications by Friday, May 18, 2018.

SEVCA and RREAL reserve the right to accept or reject any or all bids and to waive any formal defects or irregularities in the bids, when deemed to be in the best interest of the project.

 

Community Solar for Community Action

New Solar Array Planned at SEVCA's Westminster Location

SEVCA plans to build, own, and manage the first community solar installation in the nation to use virtual net metering credits to deliver energy assistance directly to low-income households. This project, Community Solar for Community Action, will demonstrate a new, nationally relevant, scalable model of energy assistance, enabling low-income households to meet their energy needs while supporting the development of renewable energy resources. SEVCA was recently awarded a grant of $111,000 from the Windham Regional Commission’s Renewable Energy Grant Program to help make the project a reality.

Community solar is a fiscally responsible and environmentally appropriate alternative to conventional, fossil-fuel-based energy assistance. Vermont has a favorable regulatory environment for community solar projects, a population that is highly supportive of renewable energy, and a significant need for energy assistance among low-income households. The project aims to help chart a new future towards a more sustainable low-income energy assistance program.

This innovative project will consist of a 150 kW ground- and roof-mounted solar array sited on SEVCA’s property in Westminster, VT. Approximately 70 of SEVCA’s low-income clients with high energy burdens will become subscribers to the solar project, and receive virtual net metering credits as a form of energy assistance. The system is projected to produce 196,284 kWh per year and save approximately 161 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. 

Project goals include:

  • Reducing the energy burden of low-income households through applying virtual net metering credits on their electricity bills, based on the energy generated by the solar array.
  • Enabling low-income households to support and benefit from development of renewable sources of energy, thereby participating in the transition to a more sustainable energy economy.
  • Reducing participating low-income households’ dependence on energy assistance by decreasing and stabilizing their energy costs.
  • Contributing to reducing and stabilizing SEVCA’s energy costs for the operation of its main office in Westminster, thereby freeing up scarce resources to use for services.

For more information, contact Becky Himlin at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Targeting the Most Vulnerable with Sustainable Solutions

Increasing costs for basic necessities coupled with stagnating or reduced real income over time is a recipe for increasing hardship and inequality. Energy is one area where costs have risen dramatically compared to income over the last several decades. Added to this, the poorer quality housing available to low-income families in Vermont is often uninsulated and inefficient, resulting in higher costs for home heating and cooling. The result is severely disproportionate energy burdens for low-income households. Those earning 50% - 100% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) in Vermont are estimated to have home energy bills amounting to 25% of their income, and those who earn less than 50% of the FPL pay almost half of their income (Fisher, Sheehan & Colton, 2016).  

But there is at least one aspect of this bleak picture that offers some hope, one in which Vermont is one of the leaders in the nation—the increased focus on sustainability of our energy resources, particularly the commitment to increasing home energy-efficiency. And far from “freezing out” households with low incomes, Vermont has invested in programs that specifically target these households. The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), offered mainly through the state’s Community Action Agencies, including SEVCA, is at the cutting edge in terms of offering sustainable, energy-saving solutions for some of our most vulnerable households at no cost to them. This program receives some funding from federal appropriations, but the majority of its funding comes from a consumption-based state tax on heating oil, propane, and kerosene. While funding has not nearly reached the level that will enable the state to achieve its goal of 80,000 homes weatherized between 2008 and 2020 (the goal set when the Vermont Energy Efficiency and Affordability Act was passed), it is having a significant impact.

Benefits for the residents of homes and apartments that are weatherized through WAP are dramatic and immediate—they save an average of 24.5% on their energy costs every year (Office of Economic Opportunity report to the Vermont State Legislature, January 30, 2018). Households with heating oil as their source of heat in state fiscal year 2016-17 (FY17) were estimated to have saved $442/year (at $2.27/gallon for fuel oil, a price which has increased significantly this year). Plus, there are huge benefits for our environment. According to a report by the Thermal Efficiency Task Force, fossil fuels used in buildings are the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Vermont, and weatherization is recommended as the most important, cost effective intervention to address that. The estimated reduction in carbon released into the atmosphere of for the 893 homes weatherized by WAP in FY17 alone was 1,592 tons/year —add to that the carbon savings from all of the units weatherized in previous years (the program has been active since 1973), and it’s clear that WAP makes a considerable contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet these impressive benefits are only the beginning. By partnering with Efficiency Vermont, WAP is working to simultaneously improve thermal and electrical efficiency. Each household scheduled for weatherization services is visited by an Efficiency Coach, who explains the entire weatherization process and also does an assessment of various efficiency improvements the household is eligible for, from simple things like LED light bulbs to appliances like heat pumps, energy-efficient refrigerators, and "mini-splits" for heating and cooling. The Efficiency Coach can install some items at this visit, like bulbs and low-flow shower heads, but a crucial aspect of the service is talking to clients about behavioral change. “The most important part of what I do is talk to them about the impact of lifestyle changes on their energy costs,” says Victor Baisley, SEVCA’s Efficiency Coach. “For example, hot water can be one of the major factors in high electricity bills, and I tell them how much they can save if they do their laundry in cold water or take shorter showers.”

The Efficiency Coach is also the point person for another important state intervention—the One Touch program, which generates referrals to numerous health and basic needs programs based on an intake survey of weatherization clients. The survey identifies people who don’t have health insurance, might have a high risk of falls, suffer from asthma, want to stop smoking, etc., and connects them to relevant programs that can help them. “We’re in the home, and that gives us the opportunity to develop a relationship with the client; one of the first things I do during my visit is to make the client feel at ease,” says Baisley, so much so that most agree to participate in One Touch and are glad to find out about these resources. Last year, Vermont’s program won a HUD Healthy Homes Award for their efforts to deliver health and home improvement interventions in an integrated way.  

Weatherization itself generates longer-term direct and indirect health benefits to residents as well as extending the life of the home. The whole-home approach WAP utilizes helps keep homes at a comfortable temperature while minimizing hazards like mold or other air pollutants in the home (triggers for asthma or exacerbating factors for emphysema, for example), or ice dams on the roof (leading to damaged and/or leaky roofs). This helps protect low-income households from having to cope with unexpected health care or home repair expenses that perpetuate the vicious cycle of poverty.

Despite all of the persuasive arguments in support of increased funding for Weatherization, the program continues to be vulnerable to budget cuts. The recent Trump Budget for 2017-18 zeroed out the Weatherization program, and while Congress is unlikely to take this recommendation seriously, the program could still be targeted for large cuts. Nor is the State of Vermont committed to appropriating the funding needed to meet its own goal for Weatherization…yet; though there is a strong coalition of organizations pushing for just that.

Miguel Orantes of Bellows Falls received Weatherization assistance from SEVCA at a low point in his life, when he had been waiting for months to receive disability benefits after a debilitating accident, followed by a serious illness. Prior to Weatherization, he said he needed four cords of wood plus oil heat to stay warm, and it was much more than he could afford. Now that his home is weatherized, even with the cold winter we’re experiencing this season, he says he doesn’t expect to use more than half a cord of wood, and his oil bill is “almost nothing.” “It’s ridiculous to live in an uninsulated home in New England,” Miguel says. “The Weatherization program is a necessity, not a luxury. Cutting it is simply not sustainable.”

We couldn’t agree more! Vermont has invested much, but could still do more to bring the financial and environmental benefits of weatherization to all residents. In the longer term, as the impact of climate change promises to be ever more devastating, home weatherization and efficiency measures need to increasingly become one of our national priorities.

Immediate Head Start Openings in Springfield

SEVCA’s Head Start program in Windsor County offers a no-cost, high quality early education program to income-eligible families with children ages 3 to 5. We’re opening an extra classroom in Springfield on March 19 for 15 children, who will attend the program from 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM, Monday through Thursday. There is still space available, so families should apply now! Families that need full-day care for their child should also apply, as there are a few afternoon child care slots available.

All Head Start sites in Springfield, Chester, White River Junction, and Windsor are accepting applications for the 2018-19 school year. Children must turn age 3 by September 1 to enroll. A full-day program is available in Springfield (M – F, 7:30 AM – 4:30 PM), and our other centers in Chester, Windsor, and White River Junction will offer six hours/day of classroom instruction, 5 days/week (M – F, 8 AM – 2 PM). This makes it easier for children with working parents to attend, and gives children the chance to rest or nap in the afternoon, have an additional healthy snack, and enjoy quiet activities.

Head Start helps children reach their full potential by providing age-appropriate developmental opportunities, educational and developmental assessments that chart their progress, and health screenings. In addition, Head Start supports the entire family, providing parents with the information and support to become effective parents as well as to work toward their own goals. And this year, Head Start introduced a more comprehensive 6-week parenting class, Positive Solutions. The curriculum was developed through the Center on Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL), and promotes positive and effective parenting behaviors, which in turn will promote children’s social and emotional development and help address their challenging behaviors. 

“I like how involved the parents get to be in the classroom and out of the classroom,” said Felicia from Springfield. She recently attended a family craft day where she and her 4-year old daughter, Kendra, made friendship bracelets, and she said she enjoys the “buddy breakfasts” and “lady lunches” as well. Kendra is in her second year at Head Start, and Felicia is thrilled with how her daughter has come out of her shell: “Kendra wasn't a child to join in on group play with other kids her first year; now she will join in or even suggest a game they all can play.” Both Felicia and her husband had attended Head Start programs as children, and enrolled Kendra as soon as they found out there was a program in their town.

For more information and to obtain an application, check our website at: http://www.sevca.org/head-start/enrolled-families. Ready to enroll? Please contact SEVCA’s Head Start Program Director, Lori Canfield, at 802-885-6669 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“If SEVCA hadn’t provided heat this winter, I might not be alive to write this.”

SEVCA Client