Citizen Potawatomi Nation partnered with Oklahoma Gas & Electric to weatherize homes for Tribal elders in November.

The utility company arrived at Father Joe Murphy Elder Housing, near Shawnee, Oklahoma, Nov. 8 and 9 with supplies and volunteers, completing basic work on 35 homes in the community.

“We wanted to ensure our elders are comfortable and reduce their electric bills during the hot summer and cold winter months in Oklahoma,” CPN Vice-Chairman Linda Capps said. “We were thrilled to learn that OG&E could weatherize the homes in the Father Joe Murphy housing community. We are grateful for their continued partnership and critical investment in our community.”

Photo of an interior of an attic where a worker is spraying insulation. The insulation is illuminated by the worker's headlamp.

Volunteers assessed what was needed at each unit and then made the necessary updates, such as weatherstripping and caulking to seal air leakage around windows and doors, blowing insulation in the attic, duct sealing, air conditioner and furnace tune up, and installing energy-saving light bulbs. The improvements, which came at no cost to the residents, were intended to increase energy efficiency to make homes more comfortable in months of extreme temperatures and to lower electric bills.

“We’re out here today with about 20 to 30 OG&E employees, as well as Skyline Energy Solutions weatherization contractors,” OG&E Lead Program Manager Toney Cooper said. “First, we go in and do tests to determine where the leakage is in the home. Once we determine that, we come back in and provide cost-effective energy measures, such as adding attic insulation where needed. Customers immediately feel a lot more comfortable. The home is a little warmer and, obviously in the summertime when we have that Oklahoma heat, the home is a lot cooler.”

Justin Whitecotton, CPN electrical director, said the Tribe participates in many commercial programs through OG&E to save on energy costs, and the recent improvements at Father Joe Murphy Elder Housing are a perfect example of that.

“It’s going to save the tenants a lot of money,” he said. “Saving electricity is good for the planet and good for their wallets at the same time, so it’s kind of a win-win all the way around.”

A worker seals a duct in a home.
A volunteer makes weatherization improvements to one of the houses in Father Joe Murphy Elder Housing.

Scott George, CPN’s Housing Department director, said the houses in the complex are all part of a low-income program, where elders pay no more than $250 per month for rent but are responsible for all their own utilities.

“It’s really important for us to try to make the houses as efficient as possible,” he said. “We were seeing some of our tenants starting to suffer with the electric bills. They’re on a fixed income, so anything we can do to help lower that bill puts money in their pocket to use elsewhere.”

“Our electric bills have been pretty high during the summer, and we had no idea OG&E had a program like this,” Father Joe Murphy resident Ruthann Smith said. “I know there are some spaces around my doors and windows that need to be fixed because you can see daylight, which means cold air is coming in. It’s good to know that OG&E cares. It means a lot that they are a part of our community and they are really helping us out.”

The weatherization program that made the updates at Father Joe Murphy possible is one available to all qualifying OG&E customers. It is available to customers who own or lease a single-family, duplex or mobile home who have a household income of less than $60,000 per year. In Oklahoma, 50,000 customers have had weatherization improvements through the program since 2009.

“Changes in temperature can significantly affect your home, and OG&E’s weatherization program helps customers who need it most combat the impact of extreme temperatures during the summer and winter,” Cooper said. “Our partnership with Citizen Potawatomi Nation and Father Joe Murphy Elder Housing shows how simple improvements can make a home more comfortable and monthly bills more manageable. We are proud to help energize the lives of our tribal customers through this key partnership.”