Fuel Bank issues call for funding help

COMMUNITY CENTER DONATION — Tom Hill of Bridgton presented a $500 check to the Bridgton Community Center, accepted here by BCC Executive Director Carmen Lone. Tom is a weekly visitor to the center and enjoys the friendly atmosphere and comfortable setting. He volunteers to take donated bottles to the Redemption Center to help raise money for BCC. The Good Neighbors fundraising committee donated $500 out of the proceeds from their Great Adventure Challenge, the annual triathlon held at Shawnee Peak in August. Funds raised are for activities and programs, which benefit adults served by Good Neighbors, Inc. Also pictured is DanaBeth Wells-Goodwin, DSP (right). 

COMMUNITY CENTER DONATION — Tom Hill of Bridgton presented a $500 check to the Bridgton Community Center, accepted here by BCC Executive Director Carmen Lone. Tom is a weekly visitor to the center and enjoys the friendly atmosphere and comfortable setting. He volunteers to take donated bottles to the Redemption Center to help raise money for BCC. The Good Neighbors fundraising committee donated $500 out of the proceeds from their Great Adventure Challenge, the annual triathlon held at Shawnee Peak in August. Funds raised are for activities and programs, which benefit adults served by Good Neighbors, Inc. Also pictured is DanaBeth Wells-Goodwin, DSP (right). 

By Gail Geraghty
Staff Writer
Around 22 Bridgton families have been helped so far this winter with heating assistance, but those numbers are expected to climb dramatically when the January cold freeze hits, and donations are needed now, said Mike Tarantino.
“We’re getting steady requests for fuel assistance, and expect to serve around 70 families this year,” he said, a little less than last year’s record-setting 91 families served.
Tarantino is coordinator of the Bridgton Community Center Fuel Bank, formerly called the Bridgton Fuel Collaborative. The former name reflected the fund’s origin in 2007 as a collaborative effort between the towns of Harrison and Bridgton, which is no longer the case, Tarantino said.
Last year’s extreme cold weather early in the season and resulting flurry of emergency requests for heating assistance completely depleted the fund, which requires around $20,000 a year to meet requests, said Tarantino. It wasn’t until an urgent appeal went out for donations, and a generous response resulted, spurred on by a challenge grant, that the fuel fund was able to meet the demand.
The Fuel Bank relies almost entirely on individual donations from the public, although the town of Bridgton has earmarked $5,000 for the fund from Community Development Block Grant Funds.
“Right now we’re in pretty good shape, but by the time January rolls around we’ll be hurting,” Tarantino said.
Part of the problem is that the federal LIHEAP program doesn’t provide heating assistance to its clients until February or March, and for many residents, that’s too late before the tank runs dry. The Fuel Bank gives eligible residents one-time assistance of 100 gallons of oil, K-1 or propane.
For the second year in a row, local restaurants are raising money for the Fuel Bank by holding a “Bridgton Bar Crawl” fundraiser that offers patrons shuttle service, raffles, treats and an end-of-night party on Saturday, Dec. 20. The businesses hope to raise as much as $3,000 through ticket sales and raffles with this event (see article elsewhere in this edition).
The Fuel Bank’s eligibility requirements are more relaxed than those used for the General Assistance Program. Many residents whose incomes are above General Assistance guidelines nevertheless live paycheck to paycheck, and find it extremely difficult to come up with the extra money for heat.
Based on the type of fuel needed, it can cost anywhere from $300 to $500 to help just one family, Tarantino said. Donations, by check or cash, in any amount — $50, $20, $10, even $5 or $1 — will be gratefully accepted, he said. Tarantino encourages any potential donors with questions about the Fuel Bank or its guidelines to call Bridgton Community Center Director Carmen Lone at 647-3116. Checks can be mailed to the BCC Fuel Bank, 15 Depot Street, Bridgton, ME 04009.

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