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Green Community Outreach Earns Grants for Hartzell Memorial and Grace (Logan Square) UMCs

Posted: May 26 2023 at 11:00 PM
Author: Victoria Rebeck


Many churches would love to have more money available to serve their communities with Christ’s love—and to become more environmentally responsible at the same time. Grace United Methodist Church, Logan Square, and Hartzell Memorial United Methodist (both in Chicago) recently received Chicago Recovery Grants that will make this possible.

The grants are given to Chicago entrepreneurs, small businesses, and developers to boost sustainable economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan’s $1.2 billion strategy aims to enhance equitable economic recovery and help

communities thrive and become safer.

Finalists were selected from four categories: community development, climate investment, equitable transit-oriented development, and building community wealth.

 

Hartzell Memorial’s energy-efficient HVAC

Hartzell Memorial’s plan to purchase and install an energy-efficient HVAC system and ceiling fans won them a $250,000 grant, says church member Brenda Asare.

This plan is especially urgent for the Bronzeville neighborhood, where Hartzell Memorial is located. Based on the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool map, it’s one of the zones in significant need of climate justice initiatives.

The benefits of the project are threefold: it better protects the environment, reduces energy expenses, and allows the church to devote more funds to their ministries with the community.

“Priority one is to replace the original natural gas boiler and water-chiller air conditioning system with electric heat pumps,” Brenda says. “The higher efficiencies of heat pumps compared to the current HVAC system would save on energy consumption. Projected savings are between 15 and 20 percent.”

They will also install ceiling fans in the main part of the building, which has high ceilings, to circulate the air to provide more even heating and cooling.

Many churches experience the burden of aging HVAC systems. Hartzell Memorial was built in 1964 and covers 18,62 square feet. It still relies on the original systems to heat and cool the building. The existing chilled water air conditioning system isn’t functioning anymore; the compressors shorted out and there are multiple refrigerant leaks, Brenda explains. The hot-water boiler has passed its life expectancy and is unable to support the burners.

The church’s gas bills average $3,000 per month during the winter and the electric bills at least $1,000 per month, Brenda says. They expect that replacing these systems will reduce these costs by about $11,200 a year.

The church will use those savings to boost ministries that strengthen the neighborhood, such as its daily after-school program for area children and youth. And it will be better able to maintain its building—which Hartzell Memorial considers a ministry resource.

 

Grace UMC’s solar panels

Grace United Methodist Church’s intention to install solar panels and upgrade its electrical system won a grant of $100,000. Like Hartzell Memorial, Grace wants its building to serve the community. The grant will enhance that opportunity in an environmentally sustainable way.

Church members have become interested in making environmental responsibility part of its community outreach. Last year, the church participated in the Neighborhood Power Project, which brought together resources from the Environmental Defense Fund, Elevate Energy, and the Illinois Green Alliance. Having the building assessed before they began the renovations has allowed Grace leaders to think about sustainability for those plans.

Solar Panels By Moritz Kindler

With the grant, the church upgraded their aging boiler from 56 percent to over 90 percent efficiency. A Commonwealth Edison program enabled them to obtain lighting that is more energy efficient.

Grace’s pastor, Rev. Hope Chernich, believes that the investment in efficient energy systems is a testimony itself.

“This is a witness to the community,” says Rev. Chernich says. “As our neighbors see and hear about the solar installation and our other sustainable renovations, we are able to share the ways our faith moves us to care for the environment and take actions to mitigate climate change.”

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