Groundswell Celebrates SOUL Success with LaGrange City Council, Partners
On Tuesday, Groundswell CEO Michelle Moore updated the LaGrange City Council on the LaGrange Save On Utilities Long term (SOUL) program. The City of LaGrange’s utility rates are among the lowest in the state, but some residents still have much higher-than-average energy usage and utility bills because their homes are older, less efficient, and use more energy. The council has searched for a solution for more than three years before encountering the SOUL program and funding it.
The SOUL program focuses on energy efficiency upgrades for low to moderate-income residents with at least 20% higher than average energy usage. Thanks to the community’s support, SOUL has been able to connect program participants with an average savings of $555 a year per household to date.
“The City of LaGrange’s electric rate is lower than anyone else in our area, but people would show me that they had a rent bill of $500 and a $750 utility bill,” LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton said. “We drilled down into it and realized that a lot of housing stock in LaGrange was built in the 1920s, and obviously they weren’t built to the energy efficiency codes that we have today.”
The SOUL program officially began enrollment in July 2020. To date, 95 eligible residents participated in the pilot program. However, 49 of the qualifying households also faced minor maintenance and structural issues that needed to be addressed before energy efficiency upgrades could be implemented. Those needs are why community partnerships connecting residents to wrap around services quickly became an essential part of the program.
“We are thankful to our non-profit partners in LaGrange who stepped-up to assist residents with wrap-around services during enrollment for the SOUL program,” Groundswell Chief Program Officer Lenwood Coleman said. “They helped with everything from food to roof repairs, and thanks to their help, SOUL is on trak to instal energy efficiency upgrades in at least 60 LaGrange homes this year.”
EEtility performs the assessments for the program and has installed energy-efficient light bulbs, hot water heater blankets, and shared information on how to reduce energy bills with 73 residents as part of the SOUL program.
Representatives from the Calumet Park Neighborhood Association, Circles of Troup County, Troup Transformation, Southface, Solar Tyme USA, Phoenix Development Corporation, and the Sustainable Solutions Group attended the meeting to hear about the initial success that they all helped make possible. Other community organizations, including DASH, Community Action for Improvement, and Habitat for Humanity Troup County, have also offered services to program participants.
“One of Groundswell’s values as an organization is to serve with joy. We believe that being able to serve our neighbors is a privilege, and we approach it with a level of respect and excellence that demonstrates how much they mean to us,” commented Groundswell CEO Michelle Moore. “LaGrange is my hometown, so being able to put what we do to work in the community has a special importance to me. Small towns — especially people who live in small towns who have the heaviest energy burdens — haven’t had access to the benefits of clean energy and efficiency. I’m proud Groundswell is helping to change that by putting people first and working in a spirit of service.”
To learn more about the LaGrange SOUL program, visit LaGrangeSOUL.com.