For nearly two years Union County 4-H’ers have been spending time off from school installing water-saving aerators and energy-saving light bulbs and water-heater blankets in the homes of area senior citizens. In return, they’ve gotten plenty of hugs, as well as lessons in community service, leadership and energy conservation.
Union Power Cooperative, which donated the devices and trained the teen 4-H’ers to install them, estimates that recipients will each save about $550 a year on their water and energy bills.
The compact fluorescent light bulbs that the teens installed use 75 percent less energy than incandescent light bulbs and last up to 10 times longer, according to 4-H agent Laura Byrd. At the same time, the kitchen and bathroom water aerators save an estimated 20,800 gallons of water annually, based on 30 minutes of use each day.
Byrd characterized the project as a “win-win.”
“It’s good for the electric company, because they are helping people conserve, and it’s good for the seniors because they are saving money,” she said. “It’s good for our 4-H’ers, too, because first they learn about energy conservation and the importance of volunteering in the community.”
The project began as part of four teenagers’ involvement with 4-H Citizenship North Carolina Focus, which brings selected young people from across the state to Raleigh to learn about the three branches of government, to discuss how the government’s work affects them and to develop a plan for helping their local communities.
Before attending the 2010 event, Union County 4-H’ers Jordan Purser, Catherine DeBerry, William Alt and Byrd met with officials from Union Power and the Council on Aging. They developed a plan, enlisted the help of 11 other teen 4-H’ers and have been carrying out their plan as they’ve gotten from the Council on Aging and the county Department of Social Services the names of seniors needing help.
Meanwhile, the county 4-H’ers have launched a new project designed to help local seniors. As part of North Carolina 4-H’s Hungry to Help project, they have developed a community garden and donate the vegetables grown there, as well as canned foods, to 10 senior citizens.
Taking a break from his work on the Hungry to Help project, 4-H’er Jordan Purser said the energy conservation project taught him not to take certain things for granted.
“When it comes to the basic necessities, you should cherish what you are given. For example, the privilege of taking a shower every day – some people don’t have that because they can’t pay for it,” he said.
“With most people, you are going in their houses and they don’t really know you. But you really connect with them because you are saving them money,” he added. “And they can’t do anything else but want to smile and give you hugs and kisses. These people are really appreciative.”
– D. Shore