"The weatherization program was life-changing for me. It inspired me to pay it forward and help others live lives of hope and dignity."

By: Kelly Fonteijn

My name is Kelly Fonteijn. I live in Pullman, WA with my husband and our seven- and nine-year old kids. Together we run a campus ministry at Washington State University. My home was weatherized as part of the Weatherization Assistance Program by Whitman County Community Action Center in 2013.

Before weatherization, our house had minimal insulation. The walls were rough-hewn fir boards with a century’s worth of wallpaper on them, and thin pine paneling over that. When we bought the house, we got a good deal because the home inspector said it was “uninhabitable” due to a lack of heat source in most rooms. We moved in during the summer, so we didn’t notice until our first Thanksgiving, when the temperature suddenly dropped to -10° F. My parents, who were visiting for Thanksgiving, got our family long underwear on Black Friday to wear in the house! I wore a thick wool sweater and wool pants inside every day the first few winters. I can remember constantly huddling around our gas fireplace, which was our main heat source. We practically kelly-blog-photosat on top of it! In fact, when my daughter was three, she backed up too far against the fireplace because she was cold and melted her polyester jammies onto the glass face. Thankfully she was unhurt, but it gave us quite a scare!

I learned about the weatherization program from a flyer I saw at our library, but I was not sure at first if it would be a good fit for our family. After all, my husband was working full time while I was home with two tiny kids. We had a steady income. Then I met with Ginger at the Community Action Center; she told me about the weatherization income guidelines and I was surprised to see that we easily qualified. We were approved, then went through an energy audit to find the places in our house that were least energy efficient.

One morning not long afterwards, Alex and his crew from the Community Action Center showed up at our house. They crawled into our crawl space and insulated our floor. They also blew insulation into our attic and walls, and plugged holes we hadn’t even known about with caulk. It turns out our carbon monoxide detector wasn’t working, so they replaced that, too. The crew was very gracious and kind. In fact, when Alex finished up the project and had me sign the final paperwork, he thanked me for allowing the Community Action Center to weatherize my house. I started laughing and I said, “You are thanking me for doing hours of hard work and making home improvements free of charge?”

The first winter after weatherization, when it got cold outside, I got ready for my typical winter routine. I put the thick down comforter on our bed, and pulled my wool sweaters and pants out of the closet. That night, we kicked the down comforter off of the bed. It was so warm in our bedroom we were sweating. My wool sweaters and wool pants ended up in our yard sale after not being used for a couple of years. Additionally, we have saved $250 in energy costs per year each year since 2013 after weatherization.

I had such a positive experience with Community Action Center that I began to do some volunteering for them, which led to writing grants for some of their programs. I now have my own small business doing grant writing and have helped Community Action Center of Whitman County win over $100,000 in grants. The weatherization program was life-changing for me. It inspired me to pay it forward and help others live lives of hope and dignity.