On a recent Saturday, I was blessed to join nearly 90 volunteers from 30 electric cooperatives from across the nation to take part in the annual Touchstone Energy® Community Service Project.
During the day-long effort, we yanked off rotting exterior boards, installed new exterior panels, caulked, painted and removed toxic drywall at homes in Hollygrove, a working-class neighborhood northwest of downtown New Orleans.
We worked in cooperation with Rebuilding Together New Orleans, a group that has helped low-income homeowners restore their properties since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city in 2005.
In 2006 and 2007, my wife Debbie organized and led weeklong mission trips to Gulfport, Miss., where we did our best to help a few families rebuild. And after nearly eight years since Katrina, it was amazing to witness the continued desire to rebuild.
The same spirit exists in other communities such as Joplin, Mo., the northeast and places throughout the world. It is a humbling experience to help others after they have lost everything to Mother Nature. And as we all know, there is always room for a helping hand in our own neighborhoods due to severe weather such as ice storms.
So what is Touchstone Energy? Touchstone Energy is a nationwide alliance of more than 740 member-owned electric cooperatives dedicated to serving their members and communities with integrity, accountability, innovation and commitment to community. SEMO Electric is a member of Touchstone. This means you have additional access to energy-saving resources.
For example, find out how the little changes add up at www.togetherwesave.com. The site features more than a dozen energy-efficiency interactive web applications linked to a virtual home tour, all designed to encourage co-op members throughout the country to take energy-saving actions now.
If you don’t have access to the Internet, start with these simple tips: Flip a switch. Seal some cracks. Screw in a CFL. Install a programmable thermostat and actually program it. You also may visit or call SEMO Electric and request a copy of “Touchstone Energy’s “101 Easy Ways to Save Energy and Money.”
If spring weather is sprouting thoughts of home improvement projects, you are not alone. Rising temperatures traditionally give rise to more remodeling, repairs, maintenance, landscaping and construction projects. Please remember these safety tips: Look up and around you. Always be aware of the location of power lines, particularly when using long metal tools like ladders, pool skimmers and pruning poles, or when installing rooftop antennas and satellite dishes or doing roof repair work. Be especially careful when working near power lines attached to your house. Keep equipment and yourself at least 10 feet from lines. If your projects include digging, like building a deck or planting a tree, call 811 for a utility locator before you begin. Never assume the location or depth of underground utility lines. This service is free, prevents the inconvenience of having utilities interrupted, and can help you avoid serious injury.
Be smart. Act safe.