Several times a year, Green Light is the grateful recipient of the volunteer efforts of Americorps NCCC teams. NCCC is a government run program for 18-24 year olds that want to dedicate 10 months to community service. Corps members are placed in teams of 10, who spend 6-8 weeks at different sites around the country, working to “get things done for America”.
Cassie Thomason is 23 years old and recently graduated from University of Kentucky. She was born and raised in Henderson, Kentucky and has never considered any other place “home.” After graduating from college she wanted to create a stronger impact on the world. In mid-October she joined AmeriCorps NCCC and over the past year she has worked in Sacramento, California, Los Angeles California, Green River, Utah, Chalmette, Louisiana and finally New Orleans, Louisiana. She had never been to these places before, but after the two months she spent in each, she is able to consider all of them “home”.
Cassie is currently serving with Green Light New Orleans. When I asked her about her experiences working with Green Light, she told me that her perspective on energy use has most definitely changed. She mentioned that she “had never realized how many light bulbs people used in their homes… in most homes they are just an excess use of energy and money.” Cassie also learned, that most of the power plants in Louisiana are run by coal and natural gas, so using regular incandescent light bulbs causes thousands of pounds of CO2 to be released into the atmosphere. In addition to learning about light bulbs, Cassie has had the opportunity to learn about how the oil spill has affected fisherman all over Louisiana. When asked how she felt about interacting with the oil spill victims she said, “I love working with them because the people in the areas that I have gone to… have been amazing.” She has interacted with many of the fishermen’s wives’, signing them up for the program, calling them to schedule an installation and finally installing the light bulbs in the homes. Cassie said that at first glance “some people might not feel like these families need the most help. What they don’t know is that these families are just beginning a long line of hardships coming their way and by helping them with a simple thing as changing there light bulbs out for energy efficient ones we are helping the environment as well as helping them save some money on their electricity bill.”
When asked about her experience in going into strangers’ homes and installing the CFL light bulbs, Cassie said, “they were all very welcoming.” In fact a lot of them offered her a cold beverage and something to eat. She mentioned that they were all very grateful for her help and were not afraid to show their excitement. One of her most memorable homes was a Vietnamese woman living in New Orleans East. She is a wife of a local fisherman who has lost work because of the oil spill. This woman was so happy that she was receiving some kind of help during these hard times that she made food and took pictures with the group. She also invited that whole group to come back to her house the following Thursday to eat a spaghetti lunch with her family.
Finally, when I asked Cassie if she was planning on continuing to be environmentally friendly when she left Green Light and AmeriCorps NCCC she replied, “Definitely. I am going to make sure that I have CFL’s all over my house and be sure to turn off the lights when I am not using them. Also I plan on biking everywhere I need to go. I would also really love to continue recycling as well as learn how to compost and perhaps have my own garden to put it in or find a near by one.”
Green Light is thankful to all our NCCC volunteers who have contributed to our work over the last 3 years. Tens of thousands of light bulbs have been installed by these teams, significantly reducing New Orleans’ carbon footprint, and saving money for individuals throughout the city.
Story by Megan Harrington