‘God Must Be Doing His Job!’ Weatherization Client Exalts
Great-granddaughter writes ‘Grandma and Grandpa prayed for people to help us.’
THE GRANTS OF CROSS COUNTY WANTED A BETTER HOME FOR THEIR CHILDREN
Wynne Family Recognized at Weatherization Day Celebration
Press Release from the Arkansas Community Action Agencies Association
Praised as ‘Partners’ in Statewide Effort to Conserve Energy
The girl of 12, who lives with her great-grandparents, Eldred and Lagail Grant, near Wynne in Cross County in northeast Arkansas, handed one of the weatherization workers for Crowley’s Ridge Development Council (CRDC) in Jonesboro a letter after they’d made improvements on the 35-year-old mobile home they live in.
In orange and green and red crayon, and pencil, on an 8 by 10 inch piece of plain white paper that had been folded to make a card, it said on the cover: “Thanks CRDC.”
Inside, the printing in pencil said: “Dear CRDC, you don’t know how much we appreciate this. . . My grandma and grandpa prayed for people to help us on our trailer. So when she got the call, she said, ‘God is doing his job.’ So I want to say thanks. Thank you CRDC.”
The girl, KaganLee Dannyelle Parker, and her brother, Phillip Odom, 5, have been cared for by the Grants since their mother, Crystal Parker, 31, died four years ago. (Another great-grandchild, Colt, 15, lives with the Grant’s daughter.)
Eldred Grant, 72, is retired from working for the sheriff’s office, as jail administrator; Mrs. Grant, 75, worked for years in a home health program; they live on their Social Security income. (They have two sons, a daughter, an adopted daughter “and raised another boy,” Mrs. Grant said in a recent telephone interview.)
They bought the three-bedroom mobile home – 12 feet by about 65 feet – just before they were married, and kept it up the best they could, Mrs. Grant said, adding, “We’ve had to keep it up for it to last this long.”
They did some weatherstripping and their son, Wesley, replaced about half the floor.
Still, much air came in, from around the doors and the windows and from under the floors.
They relied on an infrared heater, and two window air conditioners.
“We babied the heater, and we’d hang something over the back door when it got real cold. You do what you have to do; you know what you have to do.”
They couldn’t afford to make more improvements, especially after getting the children from their father, which required hiring a lawyer, who told them that they could pay him when they could.
Mrs. Grant heard about weatherization, and called the agency; it sent an application, which she filled out and returned. She later called, and “lo and behold,” the next day, in July, workers appeared, informing her that the family was eligible for the service, free of charge to those of low and moderate income.
In two days, they patched cracks and holes with caulk, foam, and lumber; put in baseboards, especially around the new flooring; put in 10 vinyl windows; installed a vented space heater and an ENERGY STAR refrigerator; reinstalled their air conditioners after taking them out to put in new windows; sealed the floors and the roof; put a door on the hot water heater and an exhaust fan over the cook stove; and provided compact fluorescent light bulbs and smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
The last of the improvements, the placement of two doors that were specially ordered, were made August 5.
The work cost $6,438, according to Kenny Gunn, CRDC’s weatherization director.
The Grants had no idea of the extent of the work that would be done, Mrs. Grant said. “It was shocking to Eldred and me. We still can’t believe it; we still go outside and look at those windows; it’s just amazing.”
She called weatherization “God’s blessing” and stressed that they sought the service for the children. “It’s for the kids; this is for the kids; now, I know my babies are going to be warm. . . It means so much to this family, to our lives.”
She said the children suffered “much trauma,” adding that Kagan had said to her that she knew that “you and papa will take care of us.” She said: “We done so much praying, and then God sent us three angels,” a reference to Danny Brewer, David Scholl, and Bobby Carr, who did much of the work. (The other workers were Ricky Smith, Layton Thien, and Shane Thigpen.)
All, she said, “were nice, precious.”
When she learned about her great-granddaughter’s letter, she asked her about it. “Kagan said, ‘Mama, the Lord blessed us, and I wanted them to know how much we appreciate it.’ I started crying.”
Weatherization Director Gunn said, “It touched everybody’s heart, because it was a true conviction; it was the truth.” He said weatherization “is a highly emotional program,” for clients and workers, “because it has to do with providing a basic human need – a decent house. . . It gives people hope that they can have a better home, better lives.”
Brewer was surprised by the letter, “because you rarely see something like this from a child. To get such notice, at such a magnitude, was astonishing. . . It makes you feel very good” to know “our work gives such satisfaction and happiness. People do care; they do care about their homes, and want to make them better, safer.”
He said the mobile home was “very much a livable home” before they improved it, despite the warped, swollen aluminum frames that kept the windows from being opened and other problems. “But it’s so much better now; we made major improvements, and beat the goal we set for air flow.” They reduced it from 2,786 cubic feet per minute (cfm) “plum down to 1,989 cfm,” even before the new doors were to be put in. (Air flow is measured by a fan-like machine called a blower door.)
Brewer, who repaired termite-damaged homes for 12 years for Terminix, said, “I love the work; I hope I get to stay until I retire” because weatherization “has such a large impact on the lives of those who truly need the help.”
He was struck by the Grants’ devotion to their great-grandchildren. “They’re overseeing their well-being with great love and care; they are good grandparents.”
Mrs. Grant, an only child, said her parents, who were farmers, as were her husband’s parents, raised 25 other children whose parents weren’t willing or able to care for them. “We was all brothers and sisters,” she said, adding that the children included “a black boy whose father was dying and who asked my daddy if we could take his son, who was 7. He lived with us till he married. . . Daddy said those kids had a right to have something, had a right to be loved.”
She reported that Phillip had just graduated from kindergarten and was preparing to enter first grade and that Kagan plays softball and that “I never miss a game or a practice. . . We do things together, we have discussions at the table, and we know where they are at all times.”
She said: “The good Lord is blessing us to raise these kids. They’re putting a spark in our life. Having them has made our life complete.”
She collects clothes for other children, organizes activities for them during the summer and after school, and takes them to their church, the Valley View Baptist Church.
“Truly, if you love the Lord like you say you do, then all the kids is everybody’s; they’re not just one person’s kids. Kids is everybody’s kids. Kids is the most beautiful things in the world. God can’t give you anything better than these kids. . . We need to love these kids. So many, all they want is for you to put an arm around them and say, ‘I love you.’ How hard is it to tell a kid you love them?”
The Grants’ home is one of nearly 1,000 CRDC has weatherized in the last year with funds from the federal Department of Energy (DOE), which established the Weatherization Assistance Program in 1976, based on work that had been done by community action agencies; the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA); and the Arkansas Weatherization Program, a state Public Service Commission-approved collaborative with the seven investor-owned utilities, which contribute to work on a customer’s home that’s “severely energy-inefficient.” (The Grants are customers of Entergy Arkansas and CenterPoint Energy, which, together, contributed $1,500 to improve their home, according to Gunn.)
Despite the ARRA-powered expansion, many of those eligible won’t be able to be served because of a lack of fuller funding; the agency has about 1,000 on its waiting list.
Since it was begun, the regular, DOE-funded weatherization program in Arkansas has injected more than $115 million into communities throughout the state to improve more than 70,000 homes, making them more energy efficient, safe and healthy and enabling clients to save income to pay for other necessities. The agencies will have received $48 million in ARRA funds, over three years, by March, 2012, to improve an additional 5,5878 homes. As of the end of July, they had improved 4,542 with the funds.
W E A T H E R I Z A T I O N Is Making Arkansas a Better Home for All