Last Saturday, Eyes on Austin, in conjunction with ComEd and South Austin Coalition, launched their pilot program promoting energy efficiency in homes for senior citizens. The project began at a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright at 42 N. Central. Work was done by 24 high school juniors and seniors and college students from the Austin community. The young people had been trained and were hired to do the necessary improvements.

On hand for the press conference were Ald. Emma Mitts, Rep. Deborah Graham, Rep. LaShawn Ford, Ald. Ed Smith, SACCC Director Bob Vondrasek, Sen. Kimberly Lightford, Chamber of Commerce President Camille Lilly, and Cornell Barnett, External Affairs, ComEd.

Jean Jackson explained what needed to be done for property owner Mrs. Teague, who has lived in this historical Frank Lloyd Wright house for more than 40 years, to make her home energy efficient.

“She’s got single-pane glass here,” Jackson explained. “We can get her some storm windows. She needs an energy-efficient furnace. Besides this house we will be doing 11 other houses, and we’ve gone out and done the assessment. We’re going to do taping and caulking of the windows. We’re going to do everything to keep the air out and make it cost efficient for the seniors. We’re using 24 high school and college students from the Austin community. They go to school here in Austin, they live in Austin, they have grandparents in Austin. They have had their training. They are using the checklist that we created, and they are going to find out what it would take to improve the efficiency piece in the seniors’ homes.”

She also noted that “seniors who qualify for the CEDA Energy Assistance Program and individuals who have participated in our Austin Labor of Love program were selected to receive free light bulbs, tape and window caulking, replacement of door thresholds and other items designed to reduce the gas and light bills.”

Austin Weekly News asked Mrs. Teague how she felt about the proposed project.

“I hope I don’t have a heart attack,” she said. “I’m getting over surgery, but I’m just so happy. I thought this would never happen. I’ve been running around trying to get some help, and I read about it in the paper. I work with the South Austin Coalition, one of the best organization around. This is a main street and people come by looking at it, and I needed painting and things done.”

Mrs. Teague has lived there since 1969.

ComEd Vice President Fidel Marquez said, “I’m honored that we could partner with Eyes on Austin. This is something that is in our mission. ComEd is really looking to partner with community groups and make a difference in people’s lives. Energy efficiency is the way to go here. Everything is going up in price, and we need to help, especially folks who need additional assistance to help manage their cost. It also helps because we have these young people here helping the elderly. It gives them the opportunity to pick up some skills. It pays them, so its a win-win all the way around.”

During the press conference, Ald. Mitts (37th Ward) said, “This year I was appointed by the Mayor as co-chairman of the Energy, Environment & Protection Committee for the City of Chicago. We’re trying to make sure our community receives the services to make our ward efficient, our neighborhood efficient and, most importantly, provide jobs for our young people.”

State Rep. LaShawn Ford (8th) said, “Thank you, Mrs. Teague, for letting us come to your place, I always wanted to come into this house. It’s a great place. I’m excited about this initiative because Senator Lightford and I sponsored legislation that all state buildings had to change to energy efficient light bulbs. I’m excited also for three reasons: We all know electric bills are going up, so if we can help people save on their light bill and gas bill, that is what we must do. I’m excited we can put young people to work-today the youth are showing they do want to work. And last, I’m excited that we are more friendly to the environment.”

State Rep. Deborah Graham said, “What an excellent opportunity. I would like to thank ComEd for this wonderful partnership and I would like to invite other corporations to come forward and be partners with our community. Austin is a valuable asset, our seniors need our support, and I’m just excited about the new things that are going to come after this. Congratulations to Eyes on Austin and all the seniors who are going to benefit from this program.”

Ald. Ed Smith said, “We have to thank Frank Clark, who is the chairman of ComEd, and John Hooker for giving us Cornell Barnett to work out here. I just want to commend Eyes on Austin for having the vision to take care of business like they have. Look at the youth out here-if we don’t give it to them now, they are never going to garner the kind of virtues they need to go forward. So we’re here to support them and give them the kind of infrastructure they need to be successful.”

Cornell Barnett, external affairs manager for ComEd, said, “We will continue to support Austin in every way. I am an Austin native. I went to high school in Austin.”

Camille Lilly, president of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, added, “Over 900 businesses do business in Austin, and we are looking to join Eyes on Austin, corporate partners and friends such as ComEd to make sure our future is stable. What better way to do that then involving the young people with energy upgrade improvements for our seniors.

According to Jean Jackson, Eyes on Austin considers this program an extension of its annual “Labor of Love” event held each summer to assist seniors and low-income individuals. “This new project,” she said, “creates another opportunity to service the neediest residents in Austin.”