By Erick Johnson, Chicago Crusader
Something must have happened at 62nd and Rhodes on Friday morning.
A siren from a Chicago Police SUV blared before the vehicle parked on the street. Onlookers pulled out their cell phones and began recording.
A police officer walked up to the two-story house, where a group of people were waiting. The door opened and screams erupted.
On a sunny Friday morning, Barbara James, 67, a resident in West Woodlawn, couldn’t believe what was happening. She was surprised with a $500 check from People’s Gas Company. It was a festive atmosphere as five employees from the utility company’s Energy Efficiency Squad presented James with an oversized ceremonial check while bells were ringing and whistles blowing. In addition, James was given a gift basket full of energy efficient products, including lightbulbs. But the big check clearly was the biggest surprise.
“Oh my God, thank you so much,” James said after covering her mouth. People’s Gas said they were chosen because they were leaders in their communities.
People’s Gas Home Energy Jumpstart is a program that offers free home products and assessments that help customers conserve energy in their homes. The program partners with the Chicago Police department’s Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) program, which selected James with the help of neighbor Felicia Squares. Sgt. Maudessie Jointer, who says she grew up in the neighborhood and personally knows Felicia, worked with her to coordinate the big surprise.
— Crusader Newspaper (@CrusaderNewspap) April 21, 2017
The event began with Jointer driving her police vehicle with the sirens blaring down the street. Shortly after, a large Peoples’ Gas van pulled up in front of James’ house. Then People’s Gas employees dressed in jeans and blue T-shirts walked up to the front porch before Squares knocked on the door to deliver the big news.
“This is what real community is and what it used to be,” said Sgt. Joiner. “Most of this stuff is about relationships and one of the hardest things is to get the community engaged.”
“Peoples Gas strives to make a difference in the communities where we operate,” said Michelle Rindt, vice president, Customer Service at Peoples’ Gas. “We’re committed to being a good environment steward and wanted to use Earth Day as an opportunity to remind customers to do the same.”
All customers are eligible for the Home Energy Jumpstart program. For more information, customers should call 844-367-5867.