Charity groups earn savings through energy efficiency
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Jul 06, 2013 | 5056 views |  0 comments | 105 105 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Richard Brooks from Acker Electric replaces an old light fixture with new ones at the United Way building in Anniston. Photo by Stephen Gross.
Richard Brooks from Acker Electric replaces an old light fixture with new ones at the United Way building in Anniston. Photo by Stephen Gross.
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The future of the local United Way recently got a little brighter.

The United Way of East Central Alabama, a nonprofit that provides funding for about 23 charities in Calhoun and Randolph counties, recently upgraded its main building in Anniston with energy-efficient lighting, thanks to a $8,500 grant from the Alabama Power Company. The grant is expected to save United Way hundreds of dollars each year and could help other charities in the area, some of which are struggling with rising expenses and flat funding.

Work crews were busy at the United Way building Monday and Tuesday morning installing the energy-efficient lighting. Curtis Simpson, executive director of the United Way of East Central Alabama, said the upgrades will save the nonprofit $1,280 each year on lighting costs alone. Simpson said he did not yet know how much the energy-efficient lights, which produce less heat than conventional lighting, will save United Way on cooling costs.

"And any savings we get, then that's just more money we can give our partner agencies to support their programs," Simpson said.

The savings will particularly help because United Way's funding has not increased much in the past couple of years. The weak economy has stifled growth in United Way's funding, most of which comes from payroll deductions from workers in the area.

"Funding levels are about the same ... campaign money we've raised has been pretty much level the last three to four years," Simpson said.

Simpson said other charities should apply for the Alabama Power energy efficiency grant to save money.

Steve Hildebrant, area manager for the north region of Alabama Power's eastern division, said the company sets aside $100,000 each year to help state nonprofits upgrade their lighting. Nonprofits must own their own building to be eligible for the grant and can receive a maximum of $10,000 to install energy-efficient lighting.

Hildebrant said many nonprofits might not know the grant exists, adding that money tends to be left over each year.

"For those that have received it, it's been a very good thing," Hildebrant said. "United Way is definitely better off for it."

Joe Nabors, executive director of the Calhoun-Cleburne Children's Center, said Alabama Power installed energy efficient lighting in his nonprofit a few years ago. The children's center is an Anniston-based organization that provides free support services to abused children and their families.

"They saved us thousands of dollars each year on heating and cooling costs," Nabors said. "It was just incredible."

Nabors said the savings helped the children's center continue to provide free services, despite recent state funding cutbacks.

Capt. Bert Lind, corps officer for the Salvation Army in Anniston, said the nonprofit's Anniston building was too old to become energy efficient. Lind said, however, that nonprofits like his are struggling with higher expenses and flat funding and should take advantage of the Alabama Power grant if possible.

"Our funding hasn't really increased but we are holding our own," Lind said. "The trouble is that costs keep increasing ... bills keep going up."

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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