EUVALCREE partnership helps bridge gaps for Eastern Oregon customers
Nonprofit organization EUVALCREE helps address needs and barriers for children and families in Eastern Oregon’s rural communities. Seeing their clients struggle to stretch each dollar to cover basic needs, the organization looks for opportunities to help them save money, including on costly energy bills.
“EUVALCREE has been able to establish a very powerful and strong relationship with communities that have historically been underserved and underrepresented,” said Norma Ramirez, the programs director for the community-based organization with deep reach in Umatilla and Malheur counties.
So when Energy Trust approached EUVALCREE about a partnership, Ramirez said it was significant that the initial outreach was made by a trusted community member.
EUVALCREE and Energy Trust soon discovered they shared a common purpose: to provide education and knowledge to empower and give hope to communities.
EUVALCREE ultimately enrolled in Energy Trust’s Community Partner Funding program, which offers residential customers higher cash incentives for energy-saving upgrades delivered through partnerships with community organizations. In addition, EUVALCREE staff members are learning to perform home energy assessments and are instrumental in finding people who qualify for Energy Trust’s incentive programs.
Although home energy assessments are more common in metropolitan areas, Ramirez said this service is “very new and innovative for this region of Oregon.”
“Prior to us working with Energy Trust, there was little to no discussion about the importance of energy efficiency, about making home improvements to save hundreds of dollars on utilities,” she said. “This program is a wonderful start so we can initiate those conversations and bring forward more programs, more rewards, more incentives for our communities.”
Working with EUVALCREE is also helping Energy Trust explore new ideas that will better serve rural customers. One idea that came from the partnership is connecting residents with local minority-owned businesses and Spanish-speaking contractors who can install energy-efficiency upgrades.
Energy Trust has also provided Spanish-language educational materials, sponsored local community events and added one of EUVALCREE’s directors to its Diversity Advisory Council.
“They were very intentional about being inclusive, about ensuring the right voices were at the table instead of centering metropolitan areas,” said Ramirez. “There’s a huge division between metropolitan areas and rural areas, and I think the collaboration between Energy Trust and EUVALCREE is trying to bridge that division.”
Working to design and develop programs for Spanish-speaking communities alongside Energy Trust, instead of being handed a one-size-fits-all plan, has been especially meaningful for Ramirez.
“They really brought in our voice every step of the way,” she said.