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Volunteers help make their neighbors' homes a little more comfortable

The volunteers went to church, had a quick lunch, got some tips on how to weatherize a house, and then fanned out into the neighborhood. Before they went home for the night, the workers, 136 in all, had put their caulking guns to work, installed gaskets and waterflow restrictors, and generally upgraded the energy efficiency of a bunch of low-income houses in the city and made life a little more comfortable for the residents.

The result, in some cases, was a reduction of up to 25 percent in utility bills, according to the utility companies.

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Many of the houses in the mid-March "energy drive" are occupied by the elderly and handicapped.

Since Oct. 1 last year, Dallas Power & Light, Texas Power & Light, the Texas Energy Extension Service, and Lone Star Gas have been supplying door and window exhibits, demonstrations, and instructions to the 145 community groups which organized Con-*Serve Dallas, a program to help families which need help.

The families are identified by the block partnership people and VISTA workers , who got in touch with the local Meals on Wheels centers and searched the records of the City Code Commission.

Con*Serve Dallas promotes the "no-cost, low-cost, simple-to-learn" weatherization effort to hundreds of area churches, synagogues, civic groups, neighborhood organizations, and businesses in a drive to enlist their support.

Houses that qualify for Department of Energy assistance, says John Harper of the regional Department of Energy office, are allowed $50 worth of materials, bought through the Dallas County Community Action Agency. A family of one with a yearly income of $4,738 would qualify as would a family of six persons with an income of $12,363. Income levels are slightly less for farm families.

Among the organizations spearheading the nonprofit Con*Serve Dallas program are the Greater Dallas Community of Churches, Dallas Baptist Association, Catholic Diocese, American Jewish Committee, Dallas County Community Action Agency, Southern Methodist University, Texas Committee on Natural Resources, the City of Dallas, Texas Energy Extension Service, and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.

Virginia Morris, who describes herself as a housewife but is also known as a group achiever, headed up the recent drive. Her engineer husband coached her in how to weatherstrip a door as well as other aspects in making a dwelling more energy-efficient at low cost.

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"I said I should do it before I talk about it," she explains.

Leadership seminars and the Dallas Independent School District helped distribute Department of Energy instructional brochures, free water-saving devices for faucets from Dallas Power & Light, Con*Serve handbooks for recruitment, and return cards so the conservation program workers could keep score on what was being done.

"We will continue until we reach our goal of weatherizing 50,000 homes," asserts Peggy Osborne of Con*Serve Dallas.

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