Program piloted at Libertyville location
Michael Kurschner, a disabled adult living at Lamb's Farm, has become an energy efficiency ambassador through a new ComEd program. He is shown with boxes of power strips that he will be distributing to others. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
NAME: ComEd energy ambassador program
LOCATION: Lambs Farm, Libertyville, is one of eight
PURPOSE: To empower disabled adults to spread energy-efficiency message
Updated: October 30, 2012 10:18AM
LIBERTYVILLE — Fifty-two-year-old Michael Kurschner, a resident of Lambs Farm in Libertyville, has a new role among his peers.
Kurschner, who has a high-functioning developmental disability, was chosen to be the ambassador for a new ComEd program, a first-ever energy-efficiency program designed for and taught by individuals with developmental disabilities.
During his year-long term, he will teach fellow residents about energy-efficient practices, earning a stipend in the process.
“Michael was chosen for this role because he is a very gifted speaker and is really good at being able to break things down for others,” said Lambs Farm Communications Coordinator Jackie Rachev.
The first such program to be organized by a U.S. utility company, ComEd has partnered with eight nonprofit organizations in the Chicagoland area geared toward the developmentally disabled, officials of the utility said.
Most of the ambassadors live in assisted living communities or with family members, and they often are responsible for their own energy use.
Each organization nominated an individual to serve as an ambassador for the program. Their responsibilities include performing interactive presentations and providing citizens within their organizations with energy-saving tips to better manage use and cut energy costs.
“We’re not just helping customers save money on their electric bills,” said ComEd Spokeswoman Martha Swaney. “We’re helping to create a more sustainable future for the communities we serve.”
Swaney said it’s important to look at all customers served by the company and to empower and educate them. The program has been well-received and, if successful, will be repeated next year.
ComEd declined to disclose the amount of the stipend paid to ambassadors in the program. Other nonprofit agencies ComEd is partnering with include Clearbrook of Arlington Heights; Easter Seals Chicago; El Valor of Chicago; Gigi’s Playhouse of Aurora; Misericordia, Chicago; Neumann Family Services, Chicago; and Special Olympics, Chicago.
A Lambs Farm resident since 1984, Kurschner has worked at a medical center for more than 25 years. Rachev said that Kurschner has taken his role head-on and is committed to being a strong ambassador for his fellow residents.
“When they asked me to be ambassador I was interested, so I thought I would try it,” said Kurschner. “I never really thought about it before, but I think people will listen and will want to save money.”
Kurschner admits that he was guilty of leaving his cell phone charger plugged into the wall when he wasn’t using it, which uses phantom power that can add up on one’s utility bill.
Kurschner has held presentations for Lambs Farm residents and staff which some members of ComEd have attended. Kurschner offers such tips as turning off electronics when not in use, even those you may not think about, like microwaves and computers. Kurschner also urges people to use power strips to easily power off unused chargers and electronics.
“I’ll be visiting houses on campus to give residents information and I’ll be handing out power strips and information cards with energy-saving tips on them,” Kurschner said.
Kurschner will travel to Chicago in November to have lunch at Maggianos with ambassadors from the remaining seven organizations as well as Chicago city council members. The lunch is meant to introduce the ambassadors to one another and council members and to offer an opportunity for the ambassadors to share feedback of the program’s progress and community response.