Michael Willis stood in a bedroom of the house he shares with his 84-year-old mother, basking in the cold air of a window air conditioner that was just installed by EnergyCare. The nonprofit agency serves low-income households, especially the elderly, disabled, chronically ill and young children.
“It was smokin’ hot yesterday,” Willis, 65, said of July 21, when the temperature reached 93 degrees, with plenty of humidity to boot. “It feels so good, yes sir.”
Two window units were installed July 22 by Tim O’Dea and Jonathan Steinke of EnergyCare. The organization had received 45 new 5,000 BTU AC units, valued at $6,000, through First Bank’s employee-funded air conditioner fundraiser event.
Willis and his mother, Marian Palmer, both have kidney disease and receive dialysis treatments. The house had central air, but it quit working and Palmer used window units until they broke a year and a half ago. Willis moved in earlier this year after his wife died. He said they didn’t have funds to replace the units.
EnergyCare’s life-saving mission keeps people from illness, hospitalization or death from summer heat and winter cold. It was founded by the late Sister Pat Kelley, CCVI, in 1983 with the same goal of helping vulnerable people. Catholic parishes and schools lend support to the agency, especially with volunteers. Referrals come from parishes, Catholic agencies such as Cardinal Ritter Senior Services, and others.
EnergyCare recently moved its offices to the St. John the Baptist Parish complex in St. Louis. Diane Huck, parish nurse, said that “EnergyCare is a good neighbor here in the Bevo area. In these hot summer days, they have provided air conditioners and education on home energy saving to many people in our parish and neighborhood. I appreciate knowing that I have this organization as a referral to those in need.”
Other Catholic entities are partners as well. Saint Louis University’s College for Public Health and Social Justice completed a study in May on the relationship between home weatherization and positive health outcomes in the senior population in St. Louis. Researchers Louise Hyneman, Kimberly Pryor, Sonya Kumpuckal and Emmanuel Adediran focused on extreme cold temperatures. They cited the need for proper insulation through weatherization to assist people who have respiratory conditions.
Poor insulation also leads to expensive electric bills that seniors with limited incomes regularly struggle to pay, the study showed. “The physical state of housing, finances and resource availability are all barriers that contribute to the struggle of maintaining one’s home at safe temperatures,” the researchers stated.
The Marillac Mission Fund, formerly the Daughters of Charity Foundation of St. Louis, is helping EnergyCare with an organizational assessment, helping it grow in a strategic and sustainable way and meet future needs in the community. The fund, “rooted in the loving ministry of Jesus as healer,” stresses a belief in the intrinsic value and dignity of all persons, especially those who are poor and vulnerable.
Claire Hundelt, executive director of the fund, said EnergyCare is “a very well-run organization and a safety net for those who are poor and vulnerable. They seem to be very responsive to the call for help.”
Bringing homes up to energy-efficiency standards “can make a difference in the life of an older adult,” she said.
The fund’s investment in nonprofit providers allows the providers to focus on poor and vulnerable people, Hundelt said. EnergyCare is poised to grow, and “obviously, the demand is remarkable,” she said, noting that for many years the foundation has funded EnergyCare’s winter warming efforts.
>> To help
To make a donation to assist people
with energy needs, volunteer or to receive help, visit
www.energycare.org. Mail a tax-deductible donation to EnergyCare P.O.
Box 63172, St. Louis, MO 63163-9966. For information, call (314)