Fuel assistance fund needs support

By Lisa Williams Ackley
Staff Writer

As the most frigid subzero temperatures in two years’ time gripped the Lake Region this week, the Bridgton Community Center Fuel Collaborative had less

HELP THOSE WHO NEED FUEL ASSISTANCE — Carmen Lone of the Bridgton Community Center (at left) and Rob Hayes, manager of Bridgton Gas & Convenience on Main Street, give the thumbs up to helping local residents who are in need of heating fuel assistance. Bridgton Gas & Convenience owner Kevin Hayes is challenging other businesses in the area to step up and make a difference in assuring the wellbeing of their neighbors. (Ackley Photo)

than $1,000 in its fund specifically set up to aid local residents who need heating fuel assistance.

Kevin Hayes, owner of Bridgton Gas & Convenience, is once again chipping in to do his part to help out the local fuel collaborative, and he is encouraging other local businesses to do the same.

During the months of January and February, for every gallon of gas pumped at Bridgton Gas & Convenience on Tuesdays, Hayes has pledged to contribute two cents per gallon to the Bridgton Community Center Fuel Collaborative.

“Kevin did this before, and he’s doing it again this year,” said Carmen Lone, director of the Bridgton Community Center who also serves on the board of directors of the Bridgton Community Center Fuel Collaborative. “Kevin just stepped up and offered to do it. He’s a very community spirited person. He said he would challenge other businesses in Bridgton to do something similar.”

“This effort started in 2006 as part of Project Warm, and it still is part of Project Warm,” said Lone. “It was started by a group of concerned citizens with the help of Bridgton Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz — he helped us with setting up bylaws, administrative policy, the board of directors and an application review committee.”

Lone said she wanted to point out that she is on the fuel collaborative’s board of directors, but she does not review individual applications for assistance — that is done by the application review committee members.

“We established the Bridgton Community Center Fuel Collaborative back in 2007, when oil prices were spiking and we knew people would be falling through the cracks, like those families who may have a member miss work or have other difficulties, but their income is too high and we knew wouldn’t qualify for General Assistance from the town. This would include some individuals living on fixed incomes.”

29 families served already this winter

“All of the money for the Bridgton Community Center comes from private donations,” said Lone. “There are no government funds received, such as LIHEAP (Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program) — it’s only private funds and donations. We did have an infusion of cash from the United Way in 2008, from the ‘Keep Me Warm’ funds.”

The need for heating fuel assistance is seemingly at an all-time high, at the very time the current fund balance is at an all-time low.

“The first year, we assisted 28 families in need of heating fuel assistance, the second year it was 32 families. And this year — it’s only January, and we’ve assisted 29 families. Current available funds total $847.41,” Lone said Jan. 21.

“Originally, we were supposed to be the last line of defense, but now the way LIHEAP funds are administered, we’re often the first, because appointments for LIHEAP are a few months out,” Lone said. “Also, sometimes when people go to apply for assistance they are already on empty, and they don’t realize they have to make out an application and it could be weeks out. It is important for people to come in before that fuel runs out.”

“We work with all the fuel suppliers in the area,” Lone said. “They’ve all been great about working with us. They’ve all been very responsive.”

Donations are tax deductible

“The Bridgton Community Center Fuel Collaborative is under the Bridgton Community Center’s 501(c) 3, so all donations are tax deductible,” said Lone.

Application and approval process

Lone said those seeking heating fuel assistance may pick up applications at the Bridgton Community Center or at the Bridgton Municipal Complex.

“Applicants should fill out the form and get it back to the Bridgton Community Center, either by mailing it or dropping it off,” stated Lone. “The applications are given to the Application Review Committee. They approve the application or deny it. They make the phone call for the delivery, and they let the client know that the fuel delivery is on its way.”

All types of fuel are included in the Bridgton Community Center Fuel Collaborative heating assistance program according to Lone, including K1, Number 2 heating oil, propane gas, wood pellets, coal and firewood. Call the Bridgton Community Center at 647-3116, for further information

How to donate

Those who want to donate can make out a check to the Bridgton Community Center Fuel Collaborative and send it in care of the Bridgton Community Center, 15 Depot Street, Bridgton, Maine, 04009.

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