The ninth season of the Windham County Heat Fund has begun. That means that local people struggling to pay for fuel, food, rent and the basics of daily life are starting to worry about how cold they will be this winter.
Daryl Pillsbury and I operate the fund with no overhead and every penny we raise goes directly to buy fuel. Once in awhile we may have to spend some funds on fundraising projects, but that is rare.
We vet all applications and we work closely with SEVCA to try to make sure that people have applied for all available help. When people call us we first ask if they have applied for other forms of fuel assistance and we give them referral information when indicated.
Most of the people the fund serves receive state and federal fuel assistance but, that is usually not enough to help people make it through the heating season without having to keep the thermostat at 55, while praying for a mild winter. In addition, the federal assistance program does not release funds until late November.
That means that the Heat Fund is now receiving applications from people who need a little help until assistance kicks in. I have five applications on my desk and all of them indicate that the applicants currently have no fuel in their tanks. Some will use five gallon cans and go to a local diesel station so they to put in enough in their tank to take the chill off at night.
Others will call and beg me to help them because they have three small children at home and they have no heat and hot water because all of their utilities run off of electricity and they have received a shutoff notice from the electric company. That is a typical story.
We are living in difficult economic times and that means that low income people generally suffer more than the rest of us. Most of the people that the Heat Fund helps are already helping themselves as much as they can, working two or three jobs and they find it difficult to ask for help. Some even want to make a promise to pay back some of the money they receive but I try to tell them that the fund exists to relieve them of that obligation.
The Heat Fund helps people because of the generosity of the local community. Many of the donations that the fund receives come from local people who make regular donations at the same time every year. The amount of those donations can range from $5 to $1,000 or more and people give according to their budget. Every donation is important.
A few days ago the fund received its second unsolicited donation from the local Ellen Willard Trust. They have been extremely generous to the Heat Fund. Their mission is to provide support and relief that benefits women and girls. Unfortunately, the fund serves a large segment of that population.
Gary Goodmote, owner of Friends of the Sun, has maintained a solid relationship with the fund and this is the second year he has made donations for every stove sold in September. I suspect that if you buy a stove this week and tell him you read this column he might be persuaded to extend his donation deadline.
The employees and the special programs of Entergy continue to be extremely generous to the Heat Fund, despite pending closure. In fact, this year they offered an unsolicited employee donation program to the Heat Fund.
The Thomas Thompson Trust and many local area churches have also been solid supporters of the Heat Fund over the years. Local musicians such as Ian Eddy and Eugene Uman have run fundraisers and many other people have offered help in many ways. We will do a few fundraising events, so stay tuned.
Now is the time to make your donation to the Windham County Heat Fund so that we can provide a little heat security to some of our more vulnerable friends and neighbors who are praying that the weather will stay mild until the end of November.
The Heat Fund is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit so all donations are tax deductible. Make checks out to the Windham County Heat Fund and send them c/o Richard Davis, 679 Weatherhead Hollow Road, Guilford, VT 05301 or you can simply make a donation directly at the Brattleboro Savings and Loan.
Richard Davis is a registered nurse and long-time health care advocate. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.