|By Leila Finucane Edmonds|
NeighborWorks America, Director
National Initiatives and Applied Research
I recently spent two days with CHP Executive Director Janaka Casper and his team. Also on the trip were Michelle Winters, NeighborWorks America Green Strategies senior manager, and David Dangler, NeighborWorks America Rural Initiatives director. Our goal was to learn more about their successes, and, in particular, their New River Center for Energy Research and Training. The center is one of only a small number of Department of Energy Legacy Weatherization Training Centers, and the first to be accredited by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council for energy efficiency training. CHP has trained more than 30,000 people at the center for jobs like retrofit installers, energy auditors, quality control inspection – so I wanted an on-the-ground view of operations.
During our visit, I heard moving stories about what CHP has accomplished, including that of CHP’s first multi-family project, a housing complex for seniors. Back in 1980s, school consolidation was common in rural areas – and Pembroke, Virginia was no exception. When the local elementary school closed, one of the planning district commissions, which act as development consultants for local government, invited CHP to help redevelop the property. CHP successfully applied to convert the property into affordable senior housing and named the complex for Sam Robinson, a former principal of the original school.
|S.A. Robinson building. The entrance still reads "Pembroke School"|
|Residents of S.A. Robinson|
On the drive back, my team and I spoke about further exploring and highlighting connections between our green program for NeighborWorks network members and our affiliates serving rural communities. Our goal is for two thirds of the NeighborWorks America network to adopt sustainable and energy efficient practices across their operations. With this visit, we are gaining a new understanding of the energy efficiency and weatherization work already underway in local markets and regions. Now, we look forward to collaborating with the network creatively to expand and share that knowledge.