"All the red vests, this here is like Christmas," Hall said, recalling her thoughts as she surveyed a house full of Lowe's volunteers. "It was just like a Christmas gift."
Hall, 83 and recently widowed, was one of three homeowners on Chicago's west side whose homes received weatherization upgrades and extensive repairs through Lowe's partnership with Rebuilding Together®. Thirty-six Lowe's volunteers from five area stores completed the work on N. Mayfield Avenue in the economically disadvantaged Austin neighborhood. Those homes were among nearly 70 weatherization projects completed across the country last fall by Lowe's and Rebuilding Together just in time for the holidays.
Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation supported the weatherization work with a $400,000 contribution that included nearly $150,000 to weatherize several homes on one neighborhood block in eight cities: Chicago, Columbus (Ohio), Denver, Hartford (Conn.), New Orleans, New York, San Francisco and Tampa. The work in Chicago launched the monthlong initiative focused on energy-efficiency improvements for low-income, elderly and disabled homeowners.
Lowe's Heroes provided a variety of repairs and home accessibility modifications to help Hall and her neighbors, Brenda Brownlee and Eugene Wellington, stay warm and safe in their homes. The homeowners had new stoves and new doors installed along with high-efficiency WaterSense® labeled faucets and ENERGY STAR® qualified refrigerators and windows to help reduce utility bills.
Brownlee, a dedicated church volunteer, had been taking a lamp room to room because of broken light fixtures. Lowe's Heroes installed new fixtures and also did extensive work to her front porch and bathroom. Derek Rexroth, the Lowe's store manager who coordinated Brownlee's repairs, said that afternoon the proud homeowner was on the front porch yelling at neighbors to come over and take a look at the improvements.
Like Brownlee, Wellington has lived in his home for more than 30 years. A retired bus driver, he lives with his son and daughter-in-law, who were both recently laid off and his 9-year-old granddaughter. Wellington, 78, was comforted to learn the basement where his family stays would be outfitted with a new smoke detector, newly insulated pipes, a new range and a water heater and a renovated bathroom. Wellington couldn't help but notice the effect the changes had on his granddaughter. "She was walking around all day Saturday looking, just smiling," he said.
Hall, who's lived on the block since 1965, flashed a similar smile while Lowe's team of red-vested Heroes rolled through the work in her house. "My aching bones will benefit from having a heated house," said Hall, who can't stop looking at her new double-paned windows.
The cold draft she always felt in the front of the house? Gone. As is the clothesline she used to dry her clothes. Now, for the first time, she has a new side-by-side washer and dryer.
Joe Becton, the Lowe's store manager who oversaw the work on Hall's home, said Hall's eyes "lit up" when they started the dryer for her and again when Lowe's volunteers told her she'd save hundreds of dollars a year with her new energy-efficient appliances and windows. But the big payoff came when he demonstrated a new "visual doorbell" for Hall, who has a hearing impairment. The bell rings louder than a traditional bell and triggers a flashing light to alert the homeowner.
Becton said Hall made him ring the bell five times so she could show others. "I could have rung the bell a hundred times," he said, "because she smiled every time I did it."