Lawrence M. Walsh
In collaboration with the Will County Land Use Department and the Will County Problem Solving Courts, the county’s Drug Court recovery homes, the Julie Ann House and the Miller Taylor House, have received energy efficiency upgrades at no cost through the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance’s (MEEA’s) Savings Through Efficient Products (STEP).
In addition to installing the energy efficient products, the We WILL Grow School and Community Garden Program, through the County Executive’s office, planted a large garden plot with three garden beds at the Miller Taylor House.
As part of the STEP program, the houses received enough LED light bulbs, occupancy sensors, and low-flow showerheads to collectively save an estimated 1,987 therms and 62,389 kWh over the lifetime of the new products. This will result in a savings of approximately $1,000 per year in energy costs. The annual energy savings from both houses will equal the cost of power for one residential home for an entire year.
This partnership was made possible through the Will County Land Use Department and the Will County States Attorney’s office. During the installation, house managers and residents were educated by Will County’s Energy & Conservation Specialist Sam Bluemer about how the products will enhance the quality of certain functions while using less energy to serve the same purpose.
“Energy efficiency is a great way to save money,” Bluemer said. “For example, LED light bulbs illuminate spaces better, such as a bathroom or office, at a fraction of traditional bulb energy use. Investing in energy efficient home products today will save future energy costs.”
The We WILL Grow School garden will subsidize food costs and educate recovery home residents about healthy eating and the benefits of gardening during the recovery process. The garden also can be therapeutic for residents. Local food specialist and grant coordinator, Kathy Pecora, is working with this project to maintain its sustainability.
The Will County Land Use Department is under the office of Will County Executive Larry Walsh. He said he appreciates the efforts of Bluemer in upgrading the home’s energy efficiency to reduce its operating costs. He said he also sees the importance of adding the garden to enhance food options for the recovery home residents.
“As a farmer, I understand the discipline and dedication it takes to yield a healthy crop, Walsh said. “The residents of this recovery home are using this discipline and dedication to their garden and their recovery. And the energy upgrades are an example of the county’s continued dedication to responsible use of tax payer dollars.”
The Will County Drug Court is under the direction of Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, who was a driving force in creating the program in the late 1990s.
“We were on the cutting edge when we established the first recovery homes associated with a local Drug Court program,” said State’s Attorney Glasgow. “We continue to break new ground, not only with the creation of a home garden for residents, but with the energy efficiency upgrades to the houses as well. Residents will take ownership of the garden, and they can enjoy the fruits of their labor.”
In Drug Court, prosecutors and defense attorneys work with the judge and treatment providers to help drug users who have committed non-violent offenses battle their addictions. Two recovery homes, one for men and the other for women, were opened in recent years to assist those who are nearing the completion of the intensive program.
Cutline: Will County Drug Court House Manager Bob Sullivan (from left), Will County States Attorney Jim Glasgow, Kathy Pecora, local food specialist and grant coordinator and Samantha Bluemer, energy and conservation specialist in the Will County Land Use Department, and Will County Executive Larry Walsh celebrate the success of the county’s first community garden at one of the county’s drug court recovery homes. The cooperative program helps recovery home residents learn about healthy eating. (Photo courtesy of the Will County States Attorney’s office.)