IMPACT Community Action’s Energy Advocates Program

The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a myriad of issues to our organizations – a “stay-at-home” order; a frightened public; and a growing need for government assistance. Then, another shoe dropped – unrelated to COVID-19. AEP Ohio did not re-up its energy efficiency programs for low-income Ohioans – the programs that provide weatherization, refrigerators, freezers, and other energy-efficient appliances to people who need help covering their utility bills. Chiquita Gardner (AKA ChiChi), Director of Energy Efficiency and Housing at IMPACT Community Action, and her team were fed up. “We had communities to serve,” exclaimed ChiChi. “People needed our help now more than ever. So we found a solution and partners to keep the program going.”

IMPACT Community Action in partnership with the City of Columbus and the Energy Foundation established the Energy Advocacy Program. According to ChiChi, the purpose of the program is “to engage communities in conversations about energy efficiency, and ultimately provide the needed services to improve Central Ohio’s low-income housing stock.” The program is very much a grassroots approach, with IMPACT representatives mobilizing in underserved communities, going door-to-door, and convening groups of community members at churches, libraries, or other public gathering places.

The IMPACT representatives are armed with tools to help start building relationships with residents. The toolkit consists of energy-saving tips residents can practice in their homes now. Additionally, IMPACT gives residents LED lightbulbs, power strips, toilet dye strip (leak detection) and a low flow shower head to kick-start the energy-saving journey. “This small gesture really gets the conversation rolling,” continued ChiChi.

“You’re going door-to-door in areas where visitors are scrutinized. Providing the residents with ‘gifts’ defuses the apprehension of having a stranger at your door talking about how to take care of your house.” ChiChi explains that the issue of apprehension is particularly high in communities with a lot of seniors. “We’re disrupting their day…their routine. Little gestures like LED lightbulbs or a power strip ,makes the conversation productive.”

Since launching the program October 1, 2020, IMPACT Community Action has knocked on over 250 doors. About 25% of those visited needed and received aid from the agency.

For more information about IMPACT Community Action’s Energy Advocates Program, contact Chiquita Gardner, Director of Energy Efficiency and Housing at (614) 453-1727 or