Earth Day House – One Year Later

Saving money, reducing emissions and improving lives

Trish Simmons and her children Brittany, 13, and Wesley, 10, used to shiver as they watched the curtains sway inside their drafty trailer, blown by a cold mountain wind. Now, thanks to The Fuller Center for Housing, the trailer is gone – disassembled and recycled – and the family can sit on their new porch when it rains and not worry about cracks that once let in cold wind and water. The insulation is so good that Trish can run a home daycare service in a healthy, safe and quiet environment, without disturbing the neighbors.
One year ago, the Simmons family was selected by the Potomac Highlands Fuller Center for Housing to be the recipient of a new, energy-efficient home. Michelle and John Connor, who head up the covenant partner, along with their staff, board and volunteers, have been building homes with a focus on energy-efficiency and responsible environmental stewardship since 1998. They focus their analyses on cost, volunteer friendly-assembly, and utility savings. The Simmons home was no exception. The goal was to provide the family with an affordable, zero-percent interest mortgage on the $77,000 house and an environmentally-friendly home with low utility costs for the life of the structure.
With the help of organizations such as Florida Solar Energy Center and Southface Energy Institute, Potomac Highlands FCH selected structurally insulated panel walls, Energy Star appliances, “low-e” windows and doors designed to reduce heat transfer, an insulated concrete slab flooring system, a radiant floor heating system powered by an in-line hot water heater and raised hip trusses to allow for a thicker layer of blown cellulose insulation in the attic.
Trish reports that her gas bill for the year was only $400 and her electric bills average between $35 and $40 each month. By comparison, some of her neighbors in the subdivision with similarly-sized homes paid about $2,000 last year for gas. Their electric bills were also significantly higher than those for the Earth Day house.
Trish fondly remembers Millard and Linda Fuller working on her home. She was shocked and deeply saddened when she learned of Millard’s passing. Brittany and Wesley grieved as well. Having just lost their father in a tragic house fire before the build, Millard’s death was hard for Trish’s children to deal with.
“Millard called me his little buddy all week during the build,” said Wesley.
His mom tearfully added, “He [Millard] is truly missed in this house.”
Trish’s children also said they miss the volunteers who worked on their house. Some of the builders from a church team in New England recently returned to Pendleton County for another week of service and paid the family a visit.
In collaboration with Almost Heaven Habitat for Humanity, the Potomac Highlands Fuller Center restored dignity and created financial stability for the Simmons family by helping them get a new house. They also gave them hope for a brighter future. Trish faithfully pays her monthly mortgage, which goes toward helping other families. Wesley decorated his room with race car and hunting themes. Brittany painted her room in the blue and gold colors of West Virginia University, where she hopes to study dance.
Millard would be delighted to see that so many people are carrying on his vision in places like West Virginia. But he was often quick to say, “This isn’t my ministry, it’s God’s ministry.” Millard left big shoes to fill, and The Fuller Center is doing it with smaller carbon footprints, which is just part of what this God Movement is all about.

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