Just a few blocks from Main Campus, Brenda Alexander and her granddaughter are braving the winter weather with a broken furnace.
The house is kept habitable by portable space heaters and a gas convention oven that is turned on each night.
Alexander’s home was one of many assessed for the Temple University H.E.A.T. (Home Energy Action Team) volunteer program, which is sponsored by the Office of Community Relations.
More than 25 Temple students donated their time last Saturday to participate in the home energy conservation program. The Office of Community Relations also collaborated with Philadelphia Gas Works, United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania who provided materials for the event and Project Homes who solicited homeowners, like Alexander, seeking weatherization services.
The U.S. Dream Academy and the Energy
Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia provided weatherization experts who taught the students how to seal window frames, install plastic insulation, and other weatherization techniques to educate home owners on ways to cut energy costs.
“I like helping people,” said Paloma Vila, a freshman whose major is undeclared.
“We’re lucky enough to go to such a good school, we have a warm house, all these things we take for granted. The question is why not volunteer? It’s so easy to go out and make a difference.”
Monica Hankins-Padilla, assistant director
of Temple Volunteers, explained that the most valuable aspect of volunteering was the chance for students to interact with the community.
“[Students] were able to actually go to their homes and hear their stories,” Hankins-Padilla said. “[They] got to hear the personal stories that the students can understand and relate to.”
When her furnace broke late last winter, Alexander, a 58-year-old retiree who is disabled by a heart condition, couldn’t afford a replacement. She said that she contacted the city’s municipal services to report the problem but is still without heat.
“I don’t want anyone else to go through what I’m going through. The city should do something to help people like me,” Alexander said.
Although Alexander’s house could not be weatherized due to its lack of a permanent
heat source, Lois Saboe, a member of the Philadelphia Gas Works Community Advisory Council, and other organizers of H.E.A.T. are working to make a difference for Alexander. They are researching the possibilities of obtaining an emergency grant to purchase a new furnace for the home.
“[Without heat], you can put a million blankets on your bed but it’s like getting in sheets of ice,” Saboe said. After spending the afternoon assisting in one of the 13 homes that was selected to be weatherized, Vila said that the reaction from the homeowners validated the day’s success.
“Just as we were leaving, the mom came home, and when she walked in she said, ‘Whew. It’s hot in here,’ and then went and turned down the heat.
“It was like instant gratification for us because we knew right away that what we did really made a difference,” she said.
Brian Kirk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.