The Heating Season Is Near

Blog#131- 9/21/22

THE HEATING SEASON IS NEAR
By Richard Davis

Some people welcome the cold weather because they enjoy winter sports. Finding some joy in winter is a good thing but there is no joy in thinking about how much it will cost to heat our homes. The average price of a gallon fuel in Vermont as of September is: $5.53 for kerosene, $4.63 for #2 fuel oil and $3.03 for propane. That will strain the pocketbook of most of us and there will too many people who will be on the verge of freezing to death when they have to decide how to pay for rent, medicine and heat in an economy that has not been kind to those who are trying to simply survive and get by.

Nineteen years ago Daryl Pillsbury and I started the Windham County Heat Fund because we thought the price of heating fuel was going to put too many of our vulnerable friends and neighbors in harm’s way during the heating season. We figured we could abandon our project in a few years after the price of fuel dropped.

We learned that the ability to pay for heating fuel has only a little to do with the price of fuel and more to do with the overall economic picture of our state and our country. That is why we continue our work.

We have found that our efforts do make a difference to people. When we hear how thankful they are that we have helped them we know we have to keep the heat fund alive. We raise between $30-$50,000 each year.

Within a few years of creating the heat fund the local community treated us as a solid vital institution and many individuals, businesses, foundations and religious organizations contribute to us on a regular basis.

The heat fund is an IRS 501 C 3 organization so donations are tax deductible, although that isn’t worth much these days.

The donor base is so loyal that we do not have to waste our time and money on fundraising. We don’t have a web site. We do not do any fundraising mailings and we rarely hold events to raise money. It is an amazing model. The heat fund has raised about a three quarters of a million dollars over the years.

Sadly, the need for the heat fund has not abated. The times we live in make the heat fund more important than it has ever been. We are hearing from people who are working two or three jobs and, on paper, seem to be making a good amount of money. But when you consider that it could cost over a thousand dollars to fill up a tank of oil that can be a hardship for a lot of people.

The heat fund usually only gives people a one-time allotment of fuel in a heating season. We ask people not to apply two years in a row but we have to be flexible with our rules because people’s lives do not fit neatly into a strict rule book. We give money directly to fuel dealers and pay for 100-150 gallons of fuel. We also provide help for people who burn wood or use pellets.

Daryl and I do not take any money for our efforts. We pay for postage and a few miscellaneous items out of our own pocket. That means administrative costs are close to $0 most years. We try to vet all applications, working with SEVCA and other local human service organizations. Almost all of the staff at fuel dealers know a lot about the lives of their customers and we rely on them to help us with our mission. They have become an invaluable resource for the heat fund.

Now is a good time to donate to the Windham County Heat Fund. State and federal fuel assistance does not provide help until late November and the fund helps people with fuel until they can get assistance from other sources. When their allotment runs out, which will be too soon in today’s crazy world of fuel prices, we have another surge in applications.

Send your donation to Richard Davis, Windham County Heat Fund, 63 Cedar Street, Brattleboro, VT 05301. You can also donate directly at the Brattleboro Savings and Loan.

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