Winter warmth funds needed more than ever
With weather that’s expected to be colder than normal, rising fuel prices and a federal heating allocation that’s down 42 percent from last year, there could be many cold people in Haywood County this winter.
Federal heating assistance is provided to counties through a federal allocation routed through the state. Last year, Haywood County received 472,684 in crisis intervention funds, according to records provided by the Haywood County Department of Social Services. This year, the amount is $200,875. Funding through the low-income energy assistance program is up slightly, from $126,800 to $149,400, but overall, there were be significantly less help available during a winter where temperatures are expected to
reach the low 20s by the end of December and remain cold in January and February.
Last year, rules were adopted that the available federal funds only went to households where there were was pre-school children in the home, the occupant was 70 or older or had a serious physical disability.
Under the federal program, a maximum yearly payment of $600 is allowed, and that will provide enough heating oil or kerosene to last for only a couple of months, say nonprofit leaders in the county.
The three nonprofit agencies on the front lines in Haywood County to help those who need winter heating help are Haywood Christian Ministry, the Haywood County Homeless Shelter and Mountain Projects, which administers the federal funds given to counties through the social services department.
On Monday, agency representatives met at the Waynesville Police Department where area residents and visitors can make donations to The Million Coin Campaign: Cash Conquers Cold effort.
While the goal is to collect 1 million coins, many generous donors have been dropping currency in the box as well. Much of the currency came from a boot drive conducted by the Waynesville Fire Department collected nearly $4,000 recently.
In anticipation of the especially hard winter, the nonprofit agencies collected more than $3,400 from the box to start on winter plans to fight the cold.
Both Patsy Dowling, director of Mountain Projects and Lisa James, Haywood Christian Ministry director, agreed to use their agency’s portion of the money to order infra-red heaters, a highly efficient electric unit that can last several years or more.
The Rev. Nick Honerkamp, who helped start the homeless shelter in the county, said the donations would be used to help operate the facility during the winter.
"With the winter that's being predicted, it will be a struggle to meet the needs in our community," James said.
Dowling expressed gratitude for the support for those who might be cold otherwise.
"I'm so moved by what this community does," Dowling said. "The firemen go into the places we go out of, and for them to volunteer their time for this. ... I'm just touched to be in such a compassionate and caring part of the world. What a blessing."
The box made possible by Clark and Leatherwood, Blue Ridge Glass and A to Z Signs is designed to hold a million coins. There is still plenty of air space in the container the coffee cans, piggy banks or jars filled with coins that, when pooled for a purpose, can make real a difference.
Volunteers with Mountain Projects and Haywood Christian Ministry have placed containers at select businesses across the county. Those willing to help with the project can get containers from either entity, or make their own.
For tax deductible donations, send checks to Mountain Projects, Inc. at 2251 Old Balsam Road, Waynesville, NC 28786; Haywood Christian Ministry, 150 Branner Ave., Waynesville, NC 28786 or the Haywood Christian Emergency Shelter, P.O. Box 1272, Waynesville, NC, 28786.