A new volunteer group will assist people who can't easily make energy-efficiency changes themselves. They call themselves Energy Efficient Lifestyle Solutions, or EELS.
Volunteers from Southeast Alaska Guidance Association (SAGA) and AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) formed the group when they realized many people weren't physically able to make energy-conservation changes themselves.
"There are a lot of people ... who can't change light bulbs, turn their water heaters down," AnneMarie Ellison, SAGA community volunteer coordinator, said. "That's a huge population that we can help."
Eight EELS attended the group's first meeting on May 21 at the VISTA volunteer house downtown.
AEL&P has donated 26 energy conservation kits to get the group started. Kits include energy-saving materials such as compact fluorescent light bulbs, weather stripping, energy-efficient showerheads, and outlet protectors.
AEL&P Vice President Scott Willis attended the meeting to train volunteers on the kits.
The group will eventually put together their own kits. Ellison said the group will have a better idea of which supplies they would need after the first house visits
Volunteers will visit homes in pairs, Ellison said. Once they have been trained, it will just be a matter of coordinating schedules between partners.
Recruitment began with SAGA and other Americorps volunteers in Juneau. The Red Cross is also trying to recruit volunteers.
"Our most obvious volunteer pool was national volunteers who are in the area, so we reached out to VISTAs," Ellison said.
There are currently about a dozen committed volunteers.
SAGA Executive Director Joe Parrish said this group fits well with the goals of AmeriCorps.
"That's part of our mission of national service, to respond to things like this," he said. "I think we're creating a model that people are looking at."
Ellison moved to Juneau two months ago from West Virginia, where coal energy is prevalent, and is used to thinking of energy as pollution. She envisions EELS beginning as "a crisis effort" but thinks the group could grow into a community-wide education program.
"We're starting with the senior and the physically disabled," Ellison said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to help anyone who requests it ... and definitely at least educate everyone."
The group has partnered with United Way, which is distributing aid to help people survive the energy crisis. Other organizations also have expressed interest in funding and fundraising.
To find people who need assistance, they are first looking to "gatekeepers" like Southeast Alaska Independent Living. Ellison said she hopes that once the word gets out, people will contact the EELS directly.
Anyone is invited to become an EEL, though background checks may be needed since they will be entering homes.
Anyone interested in becoming an EEL or receiving a visit should contact AnneMarie Ellison at (907) 790-6413 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Katie Spielberger can be reached at email@example.com.