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Action agency celebrates home help milestone

For many, receiving the monthly electricitybill brings about anguish and the question of “How will I pay thebill this month?”

    For those in need, South Central Community Action Agency has a planto help.

    The agency helps to make homes more energy efficient to cutelectricity costs. On Wednesday, officials were able to celebratetheir 2,000th home to undergo weatherization efforts.

    Robbie Fields, the owner of the 2,000th home, said the program hashelped tremendously. Before the weatherization, she said herhighest electricity bill was around $300.

    A new air conditioning and heating unit has already been installedalong with work to the air ducts.

    When the house was originally built, around seven years ago, theductwork was installed improperly and allowed air to escape underthe house. With this work alone, Fields said her electricity billhas already cut in half.

    “When I was referred, I had no idea of the magnitude,” she said.”It’s been a blessing.”

    Melvin Anderson, the general contractor for the project, said thehouse will also receive insulation in the attic along with exhaustfans in the kitchen and bathrooms. They have also installed severalsafety features, such as smoke detectors, a carbon monoxidedetector and a fire extinguisher.

    In two and a half years, Sheletta Buckley, assistant executivedirector of South Central, said their main concern has been for theelderly, disabled, low-income and families with small children.

    “We’re proud of what we do,” she said. “It’s not about us; it’sabout the people we’re helping.”

    Tina Ruffin, deputy director of the Division of Community Serviceswithin the Department of Human Services, said the goal is to makethese homes’ utility bills affordable, but the program also has ahealth and safety part that checks for things like gas leaks. Whenthese problems are found, everything possible is done to helpresolve them – whether through South Central or with areferral.

    Buckley said she believes the program is important because it helpsstabilize people and helps them to become self-sufficient.

    “Once something becomes affordable, they become comfortable,” shesaid.

    Cliff Brumfield, executive vice president of the chamber ofcommerce, said the comfort of these people is one of the importantaspects of the program.

    “We take it for granted, just being comfortable in our own home,”he said. “You’ve done something for these people they will benefitfrom for years to come.”

    However, the work does not just help the clients, but everyoneinvolved. Sollie Norword, director of the Division of CommunityService, said the program really makes the clients happy.

    “The Lord ordains us to do it,” he said. “It is really good to seethe smiles on people after we help them. I thank God I’m in aposition to help.”

    Buckley agreed with the smiles being one of the most rewardingparts of the program.

    “When you see the smile it puts on people’s faces, it brings asmile to yours and opens your heart even more,” she said.

    Norwood said although South Central does not help with the utilitybills themselves, there is government assistance available forthose with need through Southwest Mississippi Opportunity, Inc. andAJFC Community Action Agency, Inc. There are no restrictions on howmany times someone can receive assistance, especially for theelderly and disabled.

    For more information on the programs, visitvirtualroma.mdhs.ms.gov. To contact South Central, call 833-4313;to contact SMO, call 684-5593; to contact AJFC, call 442-8681.