Weatherization Success Story: Independence, MO
July 27, 2021
Mary Thurston - Weatherization

“I just want people to know that (the energy efficiency upgrade and assistance) absolutely work,” Mary said. “The savings go a long way to affording things you may have been doing without.” 

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Listening to Mary run through her schedule for the day makes one wonder where all her energy comes from or for that matter, when she’ll possibly find time to sleep. Considering everything that Mary, an active Red Cross volunteer, took on this past year, sleep seems to be low on her priority list. 

Before 2020 ended, Mary volunteered for and participated in not just one, but two 14-day Red Cross hurricane disaster response and relief efforts in the Gulf region in September and October.  Then, just a few months after 2021, she joined another Red Cross initiative in El Paso, TX.

It’s clear that Mary, a lifelong resident of Independence, Missouri, is passionate about helping others no matter what the work or where it may take her. Her time with the Red Cross allows her to serve and give hope to others, and in return, she is fulfilled and fueled by her efforts with enough energy to apparently hold back the hands of time.  

“I’m 61 years young, but I feel like 40!” Mary said.

She applies this same energy to her involvement with her family, too. She is close with her grown children – some who live nearby, others who live out of the area and one who is deployed in the military. Mary also cares for her 14-year-old grandson, and he lives with her in the 900 square foot home she’s had for the past twelve years. 

“The house is old—over 100 years-old, and my insurance company told me they were going to drop my homeowners’ insurance if I didn’t get a new roof put on,” she stated.
Mary’s utility bills were averaging over $400 a month including a heating for $200 and a $200 or more electric bill.  With a fixed income and lots of responsibilities, $400 or more in utilities alone was unmanageable, but when faced with the expense of having to put a new roof on her home, she knew she needed help.

She didn’t have time to waste and called the City of Independence who put her in touch with the Community Action Agency of Greater Kansas City and things began to happen. 

Mary completed the weatherization assistance application process. The action agency reviewed her materials and scheduled an evaluation. They came out to her home and completed and inspected it advising her she qualified for weatherization assistance including a new natural gas furnace, air conditioner and other energy efficiency upgrades.  

They scheduled and completed all the work on her home while she was volunteering last September in New Orleans. Her daughter was at the home and told Mary the crews working on the upgrades were beyond great—respectful, professional and took away all the construction debris when they were done.  They installed the HVAC system, replaced two windows, insulated around windows and doors and then tested to ensure there were no leaks.

“My house was drafty and cold when I left,” Mary said. “I came home from New Orleans, and my bedroom’s warm now!”

But Mary wouldn’t realize the full impact the changes until she received her first month of utility bills following the upgrades.  

“Since September, the highest my natural gas bill has been is $80 and my electric averages just under $100 now,” She announced. “I’m paying less than half of what I paid before.”

Helping others comes naturally to Mary. Reaching out to find help for herself didn’t come as natural to her, but she’s thankful that there are resources available like the Weatherization Assistance Program to help.  

“I just want people to know that (the energy efficiency upgrade and assistance) absolutely work,” Mary said. “The savings go a long way to affording things you may have been doing without.”