Story by Roy Lee Hosteen, Four Corners Project Coordinator
My name is Roy Lee Hosteen, and I am Red Feather’s Four Corners Area Project Coordinator. I am also a member of the Navajo Tribe and reside in Upper Fruitland, New Mexico. Upper Fruitland is one the communities that is participating in our current Wood and Coal Burning Appliance Replacement and Home Weatherization Project (WCBAR).
I began working on WCBAR in April of this year. The project is jointly funded and administered by Arizona Public Service and Southern California Edison. It’s a stove replacement and home weatherization program for low-income families who use wood and coal stoves as the main heating source in their homes.
Weatherizing a home might be simply replacing missing or cracked window glass that lets cold drafts into the home. It can also include things like applying weather stripping, replacing insulation, and patching drywall--all done to close the air leaks that make a home uncomfortable and less energy efficient. One of my primary responsibilities is to visit families in their home and provide education on how to properly use and maintain their new heating system. I do this because any of the stoves that families have been using are a simple “pot belly” design. Newer EPA-certified stoves, such as the one pictured on the next page, have advanced technologies and operate much differently.
I have seen many stoves during my visits that have deteriorated due to their age, but continue to provide service in keeping a family warm during the cold winter months. Some of the stoves are homemade and have sentimental value to the families. Nonetheless, these stoves often have defects, such as holes, that emit smoke and fly-ash into the home, causing health and safety hazards.
The experience of entering a home to install a new stove for a family is priceless. Families open their doors with a welcoming spirit and expression of gratitude. They say their good-byes to their old, faithful stove as it leaves their home. I’ve seen family members touch their old stove for one last time, as if it were another Being that helped them through the years. The contractor personnel are also moved by the family’s gratitude as they install the new stove. Once the stove is installed, a fire is built to show them how to use their new heating source.
Here are some comments from families that have had a new stove installed and their home weatherized:
“Who else would do this? I am sure thankful for the new stove and sealing where all the cold draft was coming in. Thank you so much.”
“I have noticed that I don’t burn as much wood or coal with this new stove. Thank you, thank you!”
“The new natural gas stove is a true blessing. The contractors were so polite, professional, and respectful. Now, I don’t have to bring in wood and coal, which darken my ceiling. Oh, Thank you.”
“It was certainly a privilege to be selected for a new woodstove and weatherization project. This was our Thanksgiving holiday blessing and beyond words. Our struggles and economic difficulties were considered. Zohnnie Construction personnel were professional in providing their services. Ahe’hee’, Our heartfelt appreciation!”
“The new stove is good. I like it! When I first started using it, I would get smoked out of my house. Until I learned how to use it properly… Ha ha ha. I was taught how to use the stove levers, but I was too excited to listen. It’s not like my old stove, it would get red hot and then if I didn’t attend to it the fire would burn out and my house would get cold again. Now I have a constant steady heat warming my home and the cold draft doesn’t go through my door also. Thank you to all the people involved.”
Being a community member, I have seen the need for these types of services, and really appreciate the positive health impacts the program is having in our communities. Services were delivered to forty-nine families by the end of November 2019, with many more yet to be qualified for the program. The goal is to replace 300 stoves by the end of 2021.
Any help is greatly appreciated in keeping your home safe and warm through the winter season. I applaud how professionally this program operates, serving the Native sacredness of safe home around a fire. My gratitude and appreciation for those who have a heart of giving. Ahe’hee', Thank you.