Partnership helps bridge gaps for Eastern Oregon customers

Norma Ramirez is typically skeptical when outsiders want to partner with EUVALCREE, her nonprofit that serves Spanish-speaking communities in Eastern Oregon. The organization focuses on addressing needs and barriers for children and families, connecting them to health and wellness resources and working to increase leadership capacity and social capital.

“EUVALCREE has been able to establish a very powerful and strong relationship with communities that have historically been underserved and underrepresented,” said Ramirez, the programs director for the community-based organization serving Umatilla and Malheur counties.

But when Energy Trust approached EUVALCREE about a partnership, the two organizations soon discovered they shared a common purpose: to provide education and knowledge to empower and give hope to communities.

EUVALCREE enrolled in Energy Trust’s Community Partner Funding program, which offers residential customers higher cash incentives for energy-saving upgrades delivered through partnership with community organizations.

Its staff members are also learning to perform home energy assessments. Although common in metropolitan areas, Ramirez said the program is “very new and innovative for this region of Oregon.”

“Prior to us working with Energy Trust, there was little to no discussion about the importance of energy efficiency, about making home improvements to save hundreds of dollars on utilities,” she said. “This program is a wonderful start so we can initiate those conversations and bring forward more programs, more rewards, more incentives for our communities.”

Working with EUVALCREE is also helping Energy Trust explore new ideas that will better serve rural customers. One idea that came from the partnership is connecting residents with local minority-owned businesses with Spanish-speaking contractors who can install energy-efficiency upgrades.

“They were very intentional about being inclusive, about ensuring the right voices were at the table instead of centering metropolitan areas,” said Ramirez of Energy Trust. “There’s a huge division between metropolitan areas and rural areas, and I think the collaboration between Energy Trust and EUVALCREE is trying to bridge that division.”