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Council aims to get word out on weatherization program
Ninth District Opportunity offers help to low-income residents
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Black and Cooley Drive Community weatherization information session

What: Black and Cooley Community Advisory Council gives an information session on weatherization and helps applicants with their forms
Where: The Fun Zone (Next to Randolph Barber Shop), 966 Athens St., Gainesville
When: 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday
Contact: Johnny Varner, 770-539-2849, or Troy Overstreet, 678-592-3916

Low-income home energy assistance program

What: Starting Dec. 1, the Ninth District Opportunity is opening its low-income home energy assistance program to income-eligible households. One-time payments will be made to home energy suppliers on behalf of the household. Those who apply must verify household income, Social Security numbers and the most recent heating bill.
Contact: Ninth District Opportunity, 770-534-8826

A Gainesville community group is raising awareness of a Northeast Georgia program focused on lowering the heating bill for low-income residents.

Ninth District Opportunity Inc. is offering free home weatherization to low-income households, which promotes energy efficiency by making it harder for cold air to get in during the winter months.

To get the word out to its community, the Black and Cooley Drive Community Advisory Council will hold a town-hall style meeting on Saturday at the Fun Zone at 996 Athens St. in Gainesville to answer questions on how fixed-income residents can take advantage of the opportunity.

The weatherization program provides free small home repair specific to energy efficiency, said Diane Tanksley, the weatherization coordinator for Ninth
District Opportunity.

That means the program can help residents with insulation, caulking windows and sealing attics. It doesn't rehabilitate troublesome plumbing or electricity problems.

Weatherization, which technically speaking aims to reduce air infiltration, keeps residences at the desired temperature by preventing outside air from getting in. Older homes tend to need weatherization most.

It's a benefit to residents because it lowers their power bills, Tanksley said. Another program by the Ninth District Opportunity is offering assistance with paying low-income households' power bill beginning Dec. 1.

The nonprofit organization is currently using a federal grant to fund its weatherization effort.

The program has been serving a 13-county area including Hall, Forsyth, Dawson and Lumpkin counties since the 1970s, though Tanksley admits those who need the program don't always hear about it.

"We are kind of unknown," she said.

Johnny Varner, who has lived in the Black and Cooley Drive Community since childhood, wants to make sure his neighbors know about the program and use it.

That's why Varner and the other members of the community advisory council chose to publicize the information session and help those who are interested fill out the paperwork.

Troy Overstreet, owner of the Fun Zone event hall and a member of the council, offered his space to host the meeting.

Varner said his mother successfully applied for the weatherization and received assistance to weatherize her aging home.

"It was real easy," he said.

For information on who qualifies for the assistance program and how to apply call 770-535-2458.