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Donations to Project Share help those in need but also helps prevent the need with energy improvements

HUNTSVILLE — The Madison County community is not only smart and innovative but they are also generous.

They have contributed over $5 million to help over 30,000 local low income, disabled and elderly families to pay their utility bills through Huntsville Utilities’ Project Share program in the past 35 years.

Offered as an optional donation on your monthly power bill, none of that money goes directly to Huntsville Utilities, but instead, 100% of it goes back into the local community. Recipients must apply for Project Share through the Salvation Army and qualify for it based on HUD regulations.

But there is a culture about Huntsville that demands solutions to societal problems rather than simply throwing money at them.

A few years ago, Project Share stepped into the breach with a two-pronged approach that not only addresses the short-term problem of helping pay the bills, but that seeks to improve the conditions that cause a home to leak energy due to structural and incidental problems that drive up bills.

“Huntsville Utilities is a not-for-profit company,” said Joe Gehrdes, director of Community Relations with Huntsville Utilities. “People may not realize our costs are fixed and the remainder goes to TVA, so we cannot use the money that comes into Project Share for anything except to help the community, and we are always looking for ways to make that money go further and to help more people.”

Unfortunately, there is a low level of awareness among lower income families about the benefits of energy efficiency, but that awareness is also lacking to some extent, among the public in general.

While 70% of Project Share donations still go towards helping those in need pay their power bills, Huntsville Utilities utilizes the remaining 30% of your donations to prevent high energy bills by fixing the structural and efficiency problems found in older homes and low-income housing.

“There are financial barriers to acquiring home improvement loans or buying new energy-efficient appliances that make improvements challenging for older, more infirm people,” said Gehrdes. “Those people on a fixed income are especially vulnerable.”

A non-energy efficient home is like a leaky sieve and Project Share supports inspections to identify and upgrade some of the most basic aspects in a home that drive up energy bills.

Having proper foam insulation in your walls and attic; caulking around windows and doors; replacing worn weather stripping; and even implementing hybrid alternatives that can assist some aging heating and air conditioning systems in lessening the load, are all low-cost fixes that improve the quality of living for those who are the most susceptible to high costs.

And there is a health benefit involved as well. Without proper heating and cooling, elderly and handicapped people are at high risk during extremely hot and extremely cold weather, caused by the lack of proper heating and cooling.

But here is the amazing part and why Huntsville Utilities can use more help.

Your $1 donation to Project Share on your monthly power bill will help pay for $200,000 worth of practical upgrades and options that help decrease power bills by 20 to 30% in some cases.

When you pay your own power bill, consider the Project Share request for a donation, and know that it is not only helping your neighbors, but it is working to eliminate the cause of the problem.


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