Energy Savings Blooming on Fruit Hill

By Jennifer Bray






St. Mary’s Home for Children, which has been caring for kids since 1877, recently made a bold move toward a greener future. And it’s paying off.

Thanks to an energy efficiency program, St. Mary’s Home for Children (SMHFC), showed $23,000 in energy savings over the first nine months. That reflected a 17% drop in energy costs. The non-profit reeled in the savings with a simple phone call to National Grid. And the extra savings are coming in at a critical time.

“It’s important for St. Mary’s to save money wherever possible so we can focus our limited resources on our clients whose needs are only growing during this difficult coronavirus situation,” said Carlene Casciano-McCann, Executive Director of SMHFC. 

The non-profit, located in the Fruit Hill area of North Providence, offers specialized programs for boys and girls traumatized by abuse or experiencing the challenges of psychiatric disorders. Children are treated and cared for in the residential, educational and out-patient program.

Seeking out an energy efficiency program was vital to examine the needs of the campus’s aging physical structures. With five residential houses, a school, and two administrative/outpatient services buildings on campus, there were a lot of structural and utility requirements which were costly. “We wanted to both shore up our campus infrastructure for the long term and find ways to save money,” said Casciano-McCann.

Matt Ray, Manager for Customer Energy Management with National Grid, connected one of the multi-family experts at RISE Engineering with the St. Mary’s facility staff. An ensuing audit of St. Mary’s campus was the jumping off point.

“The energy efficiency process was quite easy,” said Casciano-McCann. “RISE spent one week on our campus and replaced 80% of campus lighting with energy efficient LEDs while also replacing shower heads and aerators on sinks. I would strongly recommend this energy efficiency program for both its ease of use and the results which speak for themselves.”

National Grid’s Marisa Albanese, who is a Principal Program Manager for the Community & Customer Management team in Rhode Island, is also the Board President for SMHFC and joined in 2014.

“Since 1877 St. Mary’s has been healing lives and restoring hope for children and adults,” Albanese said. “I found the most caring group of staff I had ever met, people who built a true sense of family for these kids who needed help,” she said. Albanese’s experience with fundraising and strategic planning made her an excellent addition to SMHFC.

Working with other board members and the staff at St. Mary’s, Albanese realized that in order to succeed they needed to think about the agency’s future and about their financial sustainability.

According to Albanese, part of that was a shift from asking for grants to repair old heating systems and building envelopes to replacing systems with new energy efficient equipment. Additionally, the board agreed to create a capital budget with the energy cost savings.

That gave the agency sustained funding to address repair issues that arise and has helped them to prepare for a facilities master plan. The money saved is being invested in SMHFC facilities to make capital improvements.

 “The largest obvious gain has been the financial savings but even more than that, there are the environmental effects,” said Casciano-McCann. “It’s important to St. Mary’s to be a good environmental steward and save the earth for the children we serve and future generations.”