If you find your home is often too cold in the winter time and too hot in the summer, you could be spending too much money on utility bills. Programs are available to help Kansas City, Mo., residents with weatherization and minor home repairs that could help keep your home more comfortable and your energy costs down.

Funding for the Low Income Weatherization Assistance Program (LIWAP) expires in December, so it’s important to apply as soon as possible to take advantage of this free assistance. LIWAP assistance is offered to those who meet the income guidelines through Working Families’ Friend.

Low-interest loans may also be available for Kansas City, Mo., residents to pay for energy improvements through EnergyWorks KC (EWKC) and its lending partner, Neighborhood Housing Services of Kansas City (NHSKC). The program was developed through a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and is administered by the Metropolitan Energy Center (MEC). To qualify, homeowners are required to have a home energy assessment completed. A trained energy analyst will check for possible air leaks, equipment problems, insulation and air quality, and make recommendations that can range from do-it-yourself projects like caulking and weather stripping to bigger projects such as furnace or air conditioner replacements. The MEC has a list of energy-efficiency experts and contractors to help homeowners complete program recommendations. For information about the EWKC program, click here.

NHSKC also offers home rehab loans with low interest rates to homeowners who need help with weatherization and minor repairs. The money can be used to cover interior and exterior repairs, including structural problems, roofs, modifications for accessibility, kitchen or bathroom renovations, plumbing or electrical systems. Construction specialists will help coordinate and evaluate bids for the work, inspect the work and manage payments to contractors at no charge. Improving the safety and overall structure of your home provides a payback now and down the road. For a list of targeted areas that are eligible for these loans, click here. To apply for a loan, contact the Home Ownership Center at 816-822-7703, ext. 212, or email mbroome@nhsofkcmo.org.

Mary Kelly stands near portrait that will hang in the center.

Mary Kelly stands near portrait that will hang in the center.

More than 100 people turned out for the grand opening of the Mary L. Kelly Center on Sept. 17. The community center, located at 2803 E. 51st Street in the former Graceland Elementary School, will house the Blue Hills and Town Fork Creek (TFC) Neighborhood Association offices. The center was made possible by a donation from Joe and Jeanne Brandmeyer, who unveiled a large framed photo of Kelly at the event.

A musical presentation featured two Charlie Parker Academy students —12-year-old twins Daniel and Martin Searcy of Lenexa, Kan. — who received a standing ovation for their jazz rendition of Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher.”

After the program, guests toured the facility where volunteers have been hard at work getting the center ready for all of the activities expected to take place in the building. The community center already offers GED classes, and when renovations are completed the center will house the Charlie Parker Jazz Foundation, a dance studio, a café, a gym, a kitchen, a health club and a computer lab — all of which will be free for members in good standing with the neighborhood associations. Leaders of Blue Hills and TFC, which are both located within the Green Impact Zone, will manage the private facility.

The former school building sat empty for eight years, but is now part of a larger initiative to revitalize the economically depressed Blue Hills and TFC neighborhoods to improve housing and increase employment opportunities and overall quality of life for residents.
Mary L. Kelly, 86, is a long-time resident of TFC and a former president of the neighborhood association. The Brandmeyers chose to name the center after Kelly to recognize her work in the community.

The Green Impact Zone is co-sponsoring a hiring fair on Sept. 17 with the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Urban Neighborhood Initiative (UNI) and the Urban League. The hiring fair will take place at St. James United Methodist Church at 56th and Paseo from 9 a.m.–2 p.m. Job seekers should arrive with resumes and come dressed for a pre-screening interview. Employers with job openings can register for a booth on the Green Impact Zone webpage.

The zone, UNI, and the Urban League want to cultivate commitments with potential employers to hire residents from the central city on an ongoing basis.

At podium: Joanne Bussinger, executive director, Blue Hills Community Services. From left to right: Councilmember Scott Wagner, 1st district; Councilmembers Cindy Circo and Michael Brooks, 5th district; Cliff Pouppirt, BHCS director of planning and development; Councilmember Melba Curls, 3rd district; U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, 5th District, Missouri; and Councilmember Jermaine Reed, 3rd district.

At podium: Joanne Bussinger, executive director, Blue Hills Community Services. From left to right: Councilmember Scott Wagner, 1st district; Councilmembers Cindy Circo and Michael Brooks, 5th district; Cliff Pouppirt, BHCS director of planning and development; Councilmember Melba Curls, 3rd district; U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, 5th District, Missouri; and Councilmember Jermaine Reed, 3rd district.

On Thursday, Sept. 5, Blue Hills Community Services held a grand opening for the new Blue Hills Business Center at 5008 Prospect. Nearly 200 people, including elected officials, staff, community leaders and residents enjoyed an open house reception at the newly renovated building, with musical entertainment provided by the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts.

The formerly vacant 14,600-square-foot structure houses a training facility and a small business incubator that already has three tenants — First Response Construction LLC, Abraham Mechanical LLC, and America on the Go Plumbing LLC — all of which did part of the work on the building. Eventually, the offices will house up to 10 small businesses that will receive support and training to help them grow and add employment opportunities for residents in the central city. The center also includes community space that is available for public forums, neighborhood groups and other organizations with state-of-the-art audio visual equipment and kitchen facilities.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II attended the celebration and expressed his hope that the project will spur further investment in the inner city. “We are working to make other developments in this area as exciting as this,” he said. Cleaver also noted that the center is another sign of progress in the Green Impact Zone. “I appreciate the fact that we are saving a community, not rebuilding it.”

The eco-friendly, LEED-certified building is one of several redevelopment initiatives underway along the Prospect Corridor. The project was designed with sustainability in mind. More than 98 percent of the waste generated by construction was reused on the site or recycled. Energy conservation features include 48 solar panels on the roof that provide 10 kilowatts of renewable energy and can feed excess electricity back into the city’s energy grid. A 6,500-gallon water barrel on the back of the building collects rainwater that will provide water for a soon-to-be constructed urban garden. Produce from the garden will be harvested and used by local residents and food pantries. Another unique feature is two electrical vehicle charging stations provided by KCP&L.

The $3.1 million renovation was funded in part through an EnergyWorks KC grant awarded to the city of Kansas City, Mo., as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. The Green Impact Zone staff was instrumental in adding funds for this project to the city’s EnergyWorks KC grant application.

The Green Impact Zone will host its seventh Essential Employability Skills (EES) training beginning on Sept. 9. The free, weeklong training helps unemployed and underemployed people with job preparation skills. Those who successfully complete the program are entered into the zone’s jobs pipeline and referred to openings with area employers. While there is no guarantee of employment, participants learn skills necessary for seeking employment and becoming productive employees, including resume writing, interviewing, work ethic and proper attire.

One unique aspect of this EES training session involves a partnership with the Metropolitan Energy Center (MEC) and other agencies to provide environmental remediation and abatement classes for interested students. After completing the five-week MEC course, students will finish with a week of EES training. These students will receive certificates of completion for both the MEC and EES training.

Participants must arrive on time, dress in business attire and demonstrate professionalism each day in order to graduate. Since the Green Impact Zone began offering EES training in 2011, more than 100 residents have graduated from the program. To sign up for EES training, call
816-936-8803.

We’re proud to announce that the Green Impact Zone has been selected to receive the Paw of Approval award for superior sustainability action. The recognition is part of a two-year worldwide campaign — Pole to Pole — which highlights the importance of metropolitan governments, zoos and aquariums leading the way in sustainability and conservation within their geographic areas. The award will be presented at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 12, during a special reception at the Kansas City Zoo. Representatives from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Polar Bears International and the Arctic Action Team, myActions, (a social media app designed for users to share sustainable actions), and the Kansas City Zoo will be on hand to make the presentation.

The zone will be recognized for its efforts in the areas of home weatherization, energy efficiency, renovation of vacant public school buildings, improvements in public infrastructure, water conservation and community gardens, addressing access to healthy food, and capacity building of neighborhood leadership within neighborhood associations.

Do you have expertise in crafting resumes for job seekers? The Green Impact Zone needs volunteers to help students in our Essential Employability (EES) Skills training class create resumes. We’re looking for volunteers with backgrounds in business/human resources to help each of our students create a resume that will get noticed by an employer. Your coaching can help someone improve his/her life and it only takes a couple of hours of your time. Put your expertise to work in one or both of the following roles:

Volunteer Resume Development Coach — Evaluate and put into writing the student’s previous experience and help him/her describe and recognize any transferable skills. This session will be held Monday, Sept. 9, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Volunteer Resume Input Coach — Work with the EES student to format basic information into a professional resume. Then discuss how it could be a better and stronger presentation and continue working with the student to improve the resume. This session will be held Tuesday, Sept. 10, from 8:30-10:30 a.m.

If you would like to volunteer to help EES participants with resume writing skills, email Tamrah Conway or Twana Hall-Scott at the Green Impact Zone.

The Green Impact Zone offers its free weeklong EES program to unemployed and underemployed residents to give them the professional polish needed to attract the attention of an employer. Participants also receive training in interviewing, language skills, computer literacy, proper attire, conflict resolution, work ethic and problem solving for the workplace. Graduates are better equipped to market themselves, get hired and be successful in their new jobs.

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