Commentary: It will get cold

The recent run of warm weather has been a gift to our pocketbooks. The heating season has usually started by now and most of us might have had to throw more than a few logs on the fire or dial up the thermostat. But instead, we can wear shorts and prance around as if summer will never end.

Then there are those who, while they appreciate the warm weather respite from an early heating season, are still worrying about how they are going to pay for their fuel this winter. They know that the weather will turn any day now and they fear having to use oil or propane because they can't afford to pay for a delivery.

Those are the people that the Windham County Heat Fund has been working with on a near-daily basis this fall. This time of year a lot of local people start to worry because, although they may be eligible for fuel assistance, they know that fuel assistance money will not be available until the end of November.

This year there is additional concern because the national budget may severely cut money for fuel assistance to the states. It is just one of many items that the fat cats in Washington need to cut so they can pass more money on to their rich friends who have been generously pouring money into their campaign coffers.

One antidote to the unreliability of government funding has been the Windham County Heat Fund. While it is not a total solution, it has been a helpful Band Aid. Daryl Pillsbury and I started the fund 13 years ago and we had hoped we would not be needed by now. It looks as though we will need to keep going as long as we keep breathing.

We help, on average, about 100 individuals or families every year. We set a fundraising goal of $50,000 but we usually fall short, and most years we end up with $30,000 to $40,000. That is enough to provide those 100 families with 100 to 150 gallons of fuel and that can make a big difference in someone's life.

The fund was lucky enough to have some money left over from last year, but we have used up most of that in the last month helping people put fuel in their tanks so they can make it until their fuel assistance kicks in. These are people who know it will get cold soon, and they are trying their best to protect their families.

The heat fund is run by two people, and we do not take any money for our efforts. Pretty close to 100 percent of funds raised go directly to fuel dealers. We do not give money to individuals, and we require people to fill out applications so we can understand their situation and determine their level of need.

The Heat Fund also works closely with SEVCA and other local human service organizations to make sure that people can avail themselves of local resources. We try to vet all applications. Last year we started a policy of asking people not to apply to the Heat Fund two years in a row so that we can help as many people as possible. There are circumstances where that may not be the best policy and we look at each case on an individual basis.

All of this is a preface to asking for local people to continue their generosity to the Windham County Heat Fund. The fund is an IRS 501 (C) 3 nonprofit, and all donations are tax deductible. Checks made out to the Heat Fund can be sent to: Richard Davis, 679 Weatherhead Hollow Road, Guilford, VT 05301, or donations can be made directly at the Brattleboro Savings and Loan. Thank you for your continuing support.

Richard Davis is a registered nurse. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.


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