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Senior’s home benefits from repairs

By John Geluardi Daily Planet staff
Monday September 03, 2001

All Florence Murray, 82, wanted when she called the city three weeks ago was some help installing a new water heater she had just purchased. 

Murray, a retired day care worker, had no way of knowing the phone call would mobilize a small army of workers who would descend on her home to repair windows, replace old plumbing, weather strip doorways, seismically retrofit the walls and insulate her attic.  

In addition to the work done on her home, she also now has a new microwave oven, newly installed energy-efficient fluorescent lighting and has new refrigerator on order.  

And none of it cost Murray a cent.  

“I called and they came the very next day and didn’t stop until they had done all this work,” Murray said. “And on top of the that they were punctual, professional and very kind.” 

Murray, who has lived her Hearst Avenue home for 50 years, called a friend who works for the city and asked if there was some way she could get help installing a recently-purchased water heater to replace the one that had given out. 

Her friend gave her the number of the Low-Income Minor Home Repair Program, a nonprofit which shares offices with the city’s Household Energy Assistance Program. 

Murray explained her situation to Peter Menard Warwick of the home repair program and he sent her an application. The next day she stopped by the office for some help filling out the application form. She was assisted by Dwight Nathaniel, the weatherization supervisor for the energy assistance program. 

“While we were filling out the application, I noticed that she qualified for a number of city programs,” Nathaniel said. “I knew we could do some things for her and I made an appointment for one of my inspectors to take a look at her home.” 

Energy Officer Neil De Snoo said Murray only had to fill one application to receive the benefits of the three programs she qualified for.  

“There’s real tight network in that office so applicants don’t have to go back and apply again and again for each program,” he said. “We can provided applicants with a total package.” 

De Snoo said the city currently has a variety of programs to help seniors and low-income home owners and renters make their homes more energy efficient. He said the programs are funded by a combination of federal, state and city funds.  

The three programs Murray qualified for were the Low Income Household Energy Assistance Program, which provides payment assistance for PG&E bills, the energy office’s Free Weatherization program, which installs insulation and energy efficient devices and the Minor Home Repair Program, which primarily assists seniors with home repairs. 

Murray said she first moved into the home with her husband, Harold and their four children in the 1950s. She said her four children all went to school in Berkeley and still live in the Bay Area. Currently, she has two grandchildren living with her. Her husband, who worked at Mare Island, passed away in 1977.  

She said she had never asked the city for help and was overwhelmed with the response she received. 

“I had to call the mayor’s office and tell them how grateful I was,” she said. “I’m so happy to live in Berkeley, it’s a great city to be a senior in.” 

The mayor’s executive assistant, Jennifer Drapeau, said that Murray’s call was great to receive. “It’s so nice to hear from someone like her who has lived here for so long,” she said. “It gave us all a good feeling the city was able to help her.” 

Nathaniel said helping Murray gave everybody in the office a similar special feeling.  

“We get a lot reward from helping everybody that comes to the office,” he said. “But every now and again someone like Mrs. Murray comes along that makes you feel a little bit extra special about being able to help.” 


For more information about the Low-Income Household Energy Assistance Program call (510) 644-8544. For more information about the Low-Income Minor Home Repair Program call (510) 644-8546. For all other energy services call (510) 981-5434.