Ameren, volunteers team up to 'Brighten the Block' in Paxton

PAXTON — Teams of volunteers from Ameren Illinois, the city of Paxton and the Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School girls’ track team joined together Thursday afternoon to help the neighborhood around Pells Park become more energy-efficient.

As part of the Ameren Illinois Brighten the Block initiative, the five volunteer teams replaced older incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs on the porches of about 80 homes on High, Winter, Orleans, Center, College and Pells streets. LED bulbs last three to four times longer than the older bulbs and use 55 to 65 percent less energy.

The new porch lights should better illuminate the neighborhood, which also helps promote safety, said Kodi Smith, community relations coordinator for Ameren Illinois’ District 4, which spans from Kankakee to Carmi.

“We do this for a couple of reasons,” Smith said. “First, LED lights are a lot more energy-efficient; they save the homeowners money. They also brighten up the neighborhood and make it a little safer. ... This is our way of giving back to the community.”

Brighten the Block was also done in Danville in March in conjunction with the National Junior College Association men’s basketball tournament. Smith said about 50 homes in Danville received LED bulbs with volunteer help from Ameren linemen and members of the tournament’s top-seeded team.

All 21 members of the PBL High School girls’ track team helped in Paxton, along with six Ameren linemen, an Ameren engineer (Dave Dowling), an Ameren supervisor (Danny Mushrush), an Ameren operations associate (Tim Hazel) and Mike Goudy, who works at the Ameren substation in Champaign and is the husband of PBL track coach Alex Goudy.

The work was expected to last about an hour. Smith said it could last that long just because homeowners like to meet the linemen at their doors.

“It’s a good opportunity for the community to talk to our linemen, get to know them,” Smith said. “It’s nice to get to know the people who work in your community.”

The LED bulbs were provided to homeowners free of charge. Smith said there is never any resistance from homeowners in letting their porch bulbs be replaced.

“In fact, I always bring extra (LED) bulbs, because usually when (other) people (in the community) find out what we’re doing, they want some bulbs, too,” Smith said.

Ameren chooses one or two communities per year to participate in Brighten the Block, Smith said. The initiative will continue next year, but Ameren has not yet picked the participating cities.

“We usually do that about January,” Smith said.

Smith said the initiative helps strengthen the partnerships Ameren has with its communities.

“Our No. 1 priority at Ameren Illinois is our partnerships with our communities. We work well together, and we try to keep that consistent and we’re always open to talk,” Smith said. “We chose Paxton because we work closely with Mayor (Bill) Ingold.”

Yami Domingo, a freshman on PBL High School’s track team, said participating in Brighten the Block gave her and her teammates an opportunity to help make their community safer.

“We just felt like giving out porch lights could (make it) safer at dark,” Domingo said. “We just felt like giving out new lights would help with safety and make it look prettier. I mean, who doesn’t like a bright city?”

Categories (2):News, Living
Location (3):Local, Paxton, Ford County

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