Home heating costs are expected to remain high this winter as people continue to be forced to shelter at home due to the pandemic. For many families, especially with children who must be out of school, the added increase is an escalating concern. The reliance on oil to heat Aroostook County homes makes the annual Helping Hands for Warm and Safe Homes Telethon vital to ensuring people can stay warm. Most of the households that have received heating assistance over the years from this telethon have had at least one member who is vulnerable because he or she is elderly, disabled, or a young child. United Way of Aroostook (UWA) will once again host the Helping Hands for Warm and Safe Homes Telethon. This day-long telethon will be broadcast on WAGM TV on November 18th from 5:30AM until 8:00PM. Throughout the day pledges will be taken from generous donors and stories from recipients will be told to viewers showing the large impact of the dollars raised over the years.
Last year the telethon raised nearly $70,000 from 564 individual donors and sponsors totaling over $220,000 since the telethon began in 2017. “The Helping Hands for Warm and Safe Homes Telethon continues to bring our community together. With the combined gifts of nearly 600 donors annually we can ensure that our friends and neighbors have warm and safe homes during the challenging winter months in Northern Maine,” said Sherry Locke, Director of Advancement for ACAP. United Way of Aroostook anticipates funds will serve more than 250 households for heating assistance as well as a portion of the money being used to help those without a safe home secure housing this winter. The number of households is based on the current average cost of $2.80 per gallon distributed by 100 gallons per household. This year they hope to exceed their goal of $70,000 once again.
“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. “Our winters are harsh and with more families spending more time at home the financial burden has only grown leaving more people having to make decisions between basic needs like food and medicine and staying warm.”
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 such as a large drop in income following unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 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 18th during the telethon 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 207-764-3721.
Pledges can be made by calling 207-768-3052 on November 18th from 5:30AM-8PM. Donations can be made in advance by sending a check to United Way of Aroostook 830 Main Street, Presque Isle or by visiting helpinghandstelethon.org to donate online.
Photo: Telethon Volunteers from WAGM TV, Thompson Financial, United Way of Aroostook, Presque Isle High School and ACAP