April 4, 2021
WINDHAM COUNTY HEAT FUND UPDATE
Daryl Pillsbury and I feel an obligation to the community to provide a report of how we spent the money that has been donated to the Windham County Heat. Accountability and transparency is important, even for a small local non-profit organization.
When we started the fund in 2005 we thought the problem we were helping to alleviate was the high price of home heating fuel.
We quickly learned that affordability of heating fuel has very little to do with the price of oil, kerosene or propane. It is about social and economic justice.
We live in a very unequal society and the gap between the haves and the have nots has only increased over the years. Although the Heat Fund is about providing a little fuel for people in need it is really about making the lives of the more vulnerable around us a little easier. Almost all of the people who apply to us are making efforts to support themselves, but they experience an unexpected setback or find that the money they set aside for fuel this year is just not going to be enough.
The Heat Fund supplements a number of people who receive state and federal fuel assistance but who run out of that allotment before the heating season ends. We also help people at the beginning of the heating season who can’t tough it out until the fuel assistance funds are put into their accounts at the fuel dealers in late November.
The stories we hear are sad and there are times when we find that just giving a single band-aid of fuel is not enough for a family. We try to offer support as best we can and often coordinate with other agencies. The people we interact with at the local fuel dealers are compassionate individuals (unofficial social workers) who know many of their customers’ stories and they are aware of the obstacles that their customers face. We rely on them to understand the needs of our applicants.
The Heat Fund vets all applications and we work closely with local human service agencies such as SEVCA, as well as local churches.
The Windham County Heat Fund has completed its 17th year and the loyalty and generosity of local individuals, businesses, churches and foundations remains the backbone of the organization. This was an atypical year for the Heat Fund in terms of donations and applications. There were more than the average number of donors and there were fewer applications for assistance. We consulted with other local human service organizations and found that they also experienced a decrease in applications for assistance. We could not determine the cause for the decrease.
The fund received an unexpected bequest of $15,000 from a local donor’s will. As the heating season progressed and it became clear applications were fewer this year, we decided to set up a new fund in honor of the donor.
Our administrative expenses this year were $26.99 for office supplies. We pay for postage out of our own pockets.
Every year we set a fundraising goal of $50,000. Some years we reach it. We give out almost all of our funds every year and the more we raise the more we give out. It’s that simple. Our total income in the 2020-21 heating season was $63,039 (including the $15,000 bequest) and we paid for $31,672 in fuel. We have learned to keep a little extra money in our account at the end of the heating season so we can help people before the funds come in during the following season. This year’s surplus will be about $30,000, but half of that will be set aside for our new fund.
Of the total raised, $44,473 came from 131 individuals. Last year there were 86 donors and that figure is usually below 100, so this year was an outlier in terms of number of donors. Most of the people are loyal donors who give every year like clockwork, without any solicitation.
Ten local businesses and churches supported the fund with $6916 in donations. The local web site iBrattleboro has provided the fund with free advertising over many years and that is a commitment that is greatly appreciated. The Brattleboro Sunrise Rotary and the Brattleboro Elks have been solid supporters. We also want to thank Bob Fagelson, Comfrey Commons, Gallery In The Woods, The United Methodist Church, the Postal Workers Union, Guilford Community Church, St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Clear Solutions, the Broad Brook Grange and the Richards Charitable Fund.
We received $11,400 in grants from the Thomas Thompson Trust and The Willard Trust These organizations have been loyal supporters over the years and without them we would have a difficult time coming close to our yearly fundraising goal.
The Heat Fund paid for $31,672 in fuel for 76 individuals and families. This is the first year applications have been below 100. Applications are usually around 100-110. The average allotment was $416. We only give money directly to fuel dealers.
Donations are always welcome. You can mail them to Richard Davis, 679 Weatherhead Hollow Rd., Guilford, VT 05301 or make a donation directly at Brattleboro Savings and Loan.
Thank you for your support.