Richard Davis: Heat Fund success reflects level of local generosity

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The 14th year of the Windham County Heat Fund has finished and the loyalty and generosity of local individuals, businesses, churches and foundations remains the backbone of the organization. Daryl Pillsbury and I do the day to day work but it has been made easy because of local support.

Although the Heat Fund is about providing a little fuel for people in need, it is really about making the lives of the more vulnerable around us a little easier. Almost all of the people who apply to us are making efforts to support themselves but they experience an unexpected setback or find that the money they set aside for fuel this year is just not going to be enough.

The Heat Fund supplements a number of people who receive state and federal fuel assistance but who run out of that allotment before the heating season ends. We also help people at the beginning of the heating season who can't tough it out until the fuel assistance funds are put into their accounts at the fuel dealers in late November.

The stories we hear are sad and there are times when we find that just giving a single band-aid of fuel is not enough for a family. We try to offer support as best we can and sometimes coordinate with other agencies.

The people we interact with at the local fuel dealers are compassionate individuals (unofficial social workers) who know many of their customers' stories and they are aware of the obstacles that their customers face. We rely on them to understand the needs of our applicants.

The Heat Fund vets all applications and we work closely with local human service agencies such as SEVCA as well as local churches.

Daryl and I do not take any payment for our services and our administrative expenses run pretty close to $0. This year we spent $103 to upgrade our version of QuickBooks. We pay for postage and office supplies out of our own pockets.

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Every year we set a fundraising goal of $50,000. Some years we reach it. We give out almost all of our funds every year and the more we raise the more we give out. It's that simple. Our total income in the 2018-19 heating season was $35,309 and we paid for $38,496 in fuel. We have learned to keep a little extra money in our account at the end of the heating season so we can help people before the funds come in during the following season.

Of the total raised, $16,320 came from 72 individuals. The average donation was $227. Most of the people are loyal donors who give every year like clockwork, without any solicitation. They are the real stars of our community and we can never thank them enough.

Nine local businesses and churches supported the fund with $7989 in donations. The Brattleboro Sunrise Rotary and the Brattleboro Elks have been solid supporters. We received $11,000 in grants from the Thomas Thompson Trust, The Willard Trust and the Periwinkle Foundation. These organizations have been loyal supporters over the years and without them we would have a difficult time coming close to our yearly fundraising goal.

The fund's only public fundraising event is the Ladies of the Rainbow drag show. This year we sponsored two shows and took in a total of $3,008. Thanks to Mama Mayhem and the "ladies" for their efforts over the years. They have a loyal following and they have helped us to turn that following into our following. It doesn't get much better than that.

The heat fund paid for $38,496 in fuel for 101 individuals and families. The average allotment was $381. We only give money directly to fuel dealers.

It looks like the heat fund will be around for a few more years because the need is as great as the level of local generosity. Donations are accepted anytime and can be sent to Richard Davis, 679 Weatherhead Hollow Rd., Guilford, VT 05301 or can be made directly at Brattleboro Savings and Loan.

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


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