February 25, 2020
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Volunteers warming homes, hearts

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WASHINGTON — Doris Dixon just needed a hand.

The semiretired Washington woman lives by herself in a small cape house in the country and last year she found that her home lost a lot of heat.

“I’m very active in the community, but there’s things I can’t do anymore,” she said recently.

Enter the Knox County Home Energy Committee, which sent a group of five volunteers to her home in mid-October to help her get ready for the winter. Most of them came from the U.S. Coast Guard Station Rockland, and they energetically worked to insulate her hot water pipes, bring in firewood and caulk the windows.

In the process of all that winterizing work, the Coasties won her heart.
“They were all just darling,” Dixon said. “It was great. I’d adopt any one of them.”

It was a perfect outcome for the winterizing program, which began during last year’s energy price spike when local leaders Rep. Ed Mazurek and Pinny Beebe-Center wondered how their neighbors would make it through the cold months.

They formed the committee to help people who slipped through the cracks of state assistance, according to committee coordinator Tracy Rescigno. The names of the people come from Penquis, a regional social service agency.

“We’re doing this for the people who don’t qualify for state assistance,” Rescignosaid. “The elderly, single moms, single dads. People who don’t have the wherewithal, or they don’t know how to winterize. People with disabilities.”

Thanks to donated supplies and volunteer hours, the committee winterized 20 to 30 homes last year and has done more than 10 so far this season, Rescigno said.

The countywide operation wouldn’t happen without lots of community help.
In the two seasons, companies such as EBS, Lowe’s and Viking Lumber have donated materials to winterize the homes. Volunteers have come from police departments, fire departments, agencies like Youthlinks, private enterprise — including the Lonza manufacturing plant in Rockland, and, of course, the U.S. Coast Guard.

“It’s an amazing group effort,” Rescigno said.

The committee is looking for more volunteers, supplies and people who need winterizing help.

Chief Matt Ripley of the U.S. Coast Guard said it was heartwarming to see the Coast Guard crew members, most of whom are not from Maine, help their new neighbors.

“It helps give them some ownership in the community,” he said. “They don’t come from here. They don’t know anybody. It gives them a chance to get off the beaten path.”

Depending on how many crewmembers are off on training missions, Ripley aims to winterize from two to five houses per week. In addition to hauling wood and wrapping pipes, the volunteers can install energy-efficient light bulbs and low-flow shower heads, insulate cracks, install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, pack in regular insulation and bank the outside of the basement with plastic.

“Some of the houses are in pretty tough shape. It’s almost like holding a finger in the dam,” Ripley said. “Other ones are pretty decent. They just need a hand.”

Dixon, who has a son who lives in California and a daughter who lives in another part of Maine, said that she won’t soon forget their help — and that it felt good to have a little neighborly support.

“There are so many of us out here who have need,” she said. “Whether you’re 65, 30 or 85, you still sometimes need that other set of hands. That was the big help.”

For information about the Knox County Home Energy Committee, call Tracy Rescigno at 441-4275 or e-mail info.kchec@yahoo.com.