Volunteers weatherize JP homes

January 4, 2013
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Groups of volunteers are coming to Jamaica Plain to help neighbors weatherize their homes.

The Boston Climate Action Network (BostonCAN) has scheduled its third “Green Minga Barn-raising” in JP for Sat., Jan. 12. Volunteers from the Boston metro area will come to Minden Street to help homeowner Yolanda Gonzalez weatherize her triple-decker for the winter.

“We wanted to replicate a old pioneer tradition of the community coming together to complete work projects that are bigger than any family could do by itself,” organizer Loie Hayes explained.

Team leaders will teach the volunteers the skills required to seal drafts in the home and potential employers in the weatherization industry will also be present for a small job fair later in the day.

“They will explain the problem to the volunteers, explain how to use their tools and guide them through the process,” of fixing the problem, Hayes said.

Gonzalez has hit snags with the city’s weatherization program, RenewBoston. Since not all the occupants of her three-family home meet the same income qualifications, getting the paperwork prepared correctly is taking longer than expected. The work—in this case, insulation of the three units in the house—cannot go forward until all three occupants have been duly processed.

Until then, however, BostonCAN will bring volunteers in to seal any creaky windows, leaky vents and loose doors to keep warm air in and cold drafts out of Gonzalez’s home.

“This is something that is very time-consuming and has a relatively small return in comparison to insulation,” which is why the city doesn’t do it, Hayes said. “But drafts are what make you uncomfortable in your home. We find those drafts and try to plug them up.”

The terms “barn-raising” and “minga” both mean similar things to historic U.S. and Andean farming communities, respectively, Hayes said. A barn-raising is when various volunteers would help one family erect a barn, a task impossible for few people but easily managed by many.

“We were looking for different terms in Latin American history for people coming together to work. We wanted to make sure the Latino immigrant community knew they were welcomed,” Hayes said.

For more information or to volunteer, call Loie at 857-544-6846 or Catalina at 857-244-9104, or visit bit.ly/JPminga.