We are entering in to a critical and unpredictable time for so many of our friends, family, and neighbors. That’s why the dollars raised during the annual Helping Hands for Warm and Safe Homes Telethon will be vital to ensuring these people can stay warm. Most of the households that do receive this emergency funding, have at least one household member who is vulnerable because he or she is elderly, disabled, or a young child. United Way of Aroostook (UWA) will once again be partnering with the Aroostook County Action Program (ACAP) and WAGM-TV to host the Helping Hands for Warm and Safe Homes Telethon. This day-long telethon will be broadcast on WAGM-TV on November 17th from 5:00AM until 8:00PM. Throughout the day, there will be wonderful volunteers to take pledges from the many generous donors, and viewers will have the opportunity to watch stories to see the large impact of the dollars raised over the years.
Just this month, after the temperatures have dropped across Aroostook County, ACAP’s emergency fuel phone line has become flooded with calls. The distressed voices on the other end came from every corner of Aroostook County – from families with young children and senior citizens, from individuals who had never had to call for fuel assistance before, and from those who had hoped they wouldn’t have to turn their furnace on until later in the season. Last year over 600 donors raised almost $80,00 which allowed ACAP to not only provide the initial fuel assistance needed, but the families and individuals served received help to prevent future emergencies and get on their feet. “ We have already seen an increase in need this year and the cold weather is just arriving. We are excited about this partnership to ensure that we can fill the community need for this challenging winter. Last year we were able to provide a supplemental payment to local households and are preparing this year for the additional challenges with the lack of the supplemental payment” said Josh McAtee, ACAP Program Manager.
United Way of Aroostook anticipates funds will serve more than 150 households for heating assistance. The number of households is based on the current average cost of $5.19 per gallon distributed by 100 gallons per household. This year they hope to exceed their goal of $80,000 once again. The rising oil prices this year means we may reach less than the 250 families we were able to serve in past years.
“We are excited to once again partner with the Aroostook County Action Program and WAGM TV to raise these vital funds,” said Sarah Duncan, Executive Director of United Way of Aroostook. “It’s scary looking at the heating prices and seeing the drastic difference in number of households we can help if we only fundraise what we did last year. The heating prices have skyrocketed making it harder for families that don’t have the money to cover the increased cost which means we are going to see a scary demand of people needing assistance that we have never seen before. This will be our most difficult winter yet.”
It is also vital to acknowledge the importance of HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program) dollars that are available to Aroostook County residents who qualify throughout the year. ACAP administers this program as well as the donation dollars from the telethon. This allows ACAP to reach additional households who need energy assistance, including newly eligible families that are experiencing a financial hardship because of the inflation of basic living costs. Anyone who thinks they may be eligible is encouraged to contact ACAP at any time to schedule an appointment. Members of the Heating Assistance Team will be available on the 17th to answer questions and take a limited number of appointments from first time applicants, all other applicants will be scheduled at a later time. If you know of someone that may need assistance, we are asking for your help in reaching these families and others who would benefit from the HEAP assistance program. The number to receive assistance at the ACAP office is 207-764-3053.
Pledges can be made by calling 207-768-3052 on November 17th from 5:00AM-8:00PM. Donations can be made in advance by sending a check to United Way of Aroostook 830 Main Street, Presque Isle or by visiting wagmtv.com and clicking on the telethon link or simply by sending a Venmo payment to @UnitedWayAroostook with the description telethon.
Photo: Jamie Guerrette, Community Volunteer; Jamie Chandler, ACAP COO; Becca Damon, ACAP Creative Content Specialist: Meg Hegemann, ACAP Program Coordinator; Rhian Lowndes, WAGM Reporter; Jason Parent, ACAP CEO; Carly Guerrette, Community Volunteer; Suzanne Senechal Jandreau, ACAP Board Member; Tara Whitton, ACAP Board Member; and Sarah Duncan, UWA Executive Director.