Jan Demers: Programs are out there to keep families warm
I remember the cold coming on when I lived in the Northeast Kingdom. Seeing the first of the early morning frost and hearing trucks backing up to homes and dumping loads of cut logs. The logs were split into manageable sizes and tossed down bulkheads into the basement. We would stack and fill the basement high with dry wood to prepare the old Vermont parsonage for the winter months.
In our offices at CVOEO now is the time that families with young children and older Vermonters come in asking for money to help with notice of electricity disconnections. It is a sign that the cold is coming. It takes focus and persistence to keep families warm during Vermont winters. We have different plans and various partners that make that happen. The State of Vermont receives Federal LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) funding. They use LIHEAP funding in several ways. The first is a seasonal benefit that comes out in November. This benefit is sent directly to the fuel dealers of the families we serve. They schedule deliveries and fill up fuel or propane tanks.
If the LIHEAP seasonal benefit isn’t enough to carry a family through the winter, those in need come to a CVOEO office for a Crisis Fuel benefit. If they are elderly or disabled, they can call us (802-388-6285). Once eligibility is established we will make arrangements with their fuel dealer for another delivery of fuel. In the last heating season we served 1,451 unique families for a total of 1,711 assists at a cost of $535,000.
Then there is the Warmth Program. Foundations like the Argosy Foundation, Banks like Community Bank N.A, fuel dealers and utilities like Green Mountain Power, fundraisers like Wheels for Warmth and close to a thousand private donations ensure that before the seasonal benefit starts, during the deep winter and when the sun starts to warm the earth, Vermont families can find another source of funding to keep warm. In the last heating season, CVOEO raised $263,290 and spent $275,780. We assisted 1,550 unique families a total of 2,131times.
“I’m expecting his call any day now” a crisis fuel advocate said. The anticipated call is from a life-long Vermont farmer. He is now disabled and living in a drafty wood frame rented home. He uses the LIHEAP seasonal benefit, crisis fuel benefit and as much Warmth funding as possible. He calls in September because that is when he starts to get cold. We helped to get volunteers to put plastic on the windows and tighten up his home. Perhaps he should move, but those are other people’s thoughts, not his own.
Today the tea is brewed so that I can warm my hands and put on an extra sweater in the early hours of the morning. I know that the parkas, boots, hats and mittens are coming. We are ready to do as much as we can to help keep everyone warm and are grateful for the way we do that together.
Jan Demers is the executive director of CVOEO.