St. Charles

Hometown Resource Center makes upgrades that result in more money for serving residents

July 2022

The Hometown Resource Center in St. Charles, Minn. is a thrift shop, food shelf, and also serves the residents of western Winona County with other types of emergency support. 

Funding from a CERTs Seed Grant of $5,000, a Minnesota MainStreet Covid Relief Grant of $10,000, and private donations helped them replace their aged and unreliable HVAC system with one which is new and more efficient.

Not only does this save money otherwise spent on repairs, but it is predicted to save them several hundred dollars a year on heating and cooling due to the higher efficiency.

Programmable thermostats are expected to save another $300 annually if they are used to set the building’s temperature when unoccupied to 62 degrees in the winter and 84 degrees in the summer.

The savings, as Director Tom Parlin pointed out, “will reduce our costs and give us more to cover other costs and advance our main mission.”

“The furnace was installed in 1986 and it gave us a lot of years, but it was time to replace it before we were forced to.”

Director Tom Parlin

The total cost for the furnace and air conditioner was around $16,000, with the Mainstreet grant and community donations paying for equipment and the CERTs grant paying for most of the installation labor costs. The Center used volunteer labor where possible in clearing the area and prepping the basement for installation. 

The Resource Center uses the thrift shop to support other work, but for folks in need they often share clothes and houseware items at no charge. Parlin estimated that the food shelf serves about 100 local residents a month. And if a local family experiences an emergency, the Center can help them find temporary shelter, transportation funds, or help with bills like utilities or medical expenses.

“We probably serve 2 to 3 clients in crisis a month. We help give them room to breathe and then they can move on.”

Director Tom Parlin

Since Parlin started working with the Resource Center last year there has been much to do, in addition to replacing the HVAC system.

The building housing the Center’s food shelf went up for sale in 2021 and fearing they would lose the space they purchased it. The new HVAC will condition both the thrift shop and the food shelf. The purchase allowed them to expand and offer more items, but they also need to deal with a leaking roof and moisture in the basement.

A Capital Improvement Campaign they launched during 2021 helped provide some funds for the HVAC replacement, and will help with the other needed building repairs.

Parlin’s advice for other organizations is “to look for multiple ways to fund a project like this. We were not successful in all of the grants we applied for but we applied until we were successful.” He continued, “Having a capital campaign was a good supplement to the two grants we received.”

Partial funding for this project was provided by Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) Seed Grants, and made possible by support from the MN Department of Commerce through Minnesota’s Conservation Improvement Program and/or the U.S. Department of Energy's State Energy Program. 

Clean Energy Focus: HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) upgrade

Total Approximate Project Cost: $16,000

Southeast CERT Seed Grant: $5,000

Other Funds: Main Street COVID Relief Grant Program, St. Charles United Methodist Church, and six donors through a Christmas fundraiser.

Annual Energy Savings: 2,530 kWh and 343 therms

Energy Savings Equivalency: 1,210 LED bulbs' annual energy use

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