Relief available as cold weather drives up costs

Nov. 13, 2013 @ 04:58 AM

As temperatures continue to plummet, government and nonprofit organizations are readying their programs to assist area residents with heating needs.

Several groups offer financial assistance to low income and other niche groups with heat-related costs through the coming winter months. 

Lee County Department of Social Services

The Lee County Department of Social Services offers a variety of programs, including the Low Income Energy Assistance Program, the Crisis Intervention Program and funding pools from Duke Energy Progress and Central Electric Membership Corporation, according to DSS Supervisor Sabrina Coleman.

"These programs are important," Coleman said. "We are helping those who may not be able to afford heating or cooling sources, and with the Crisis Intervention Program, someone's life could be in jeopardy."

More than 1,800 applications were approved last year, Coleman said, and more than $360,000 in federal funds is allotted. People can submit an application at the Lee County Government Center, located at 106 Hillcrest Drive, but Coleman said people may experience delays because of the large number of applicants.

Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action

Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action Inc. offers financial assistance to low-income families that face high electric or gas bills, according to Stars Coordinator Tameika Prince. In Lee County alone, she said the organization served 200 to 300 households last year.

"There are a lot of low-income families that need assistance," she said, "especially the elderly with bills being so high."

The funding for the organization's program comes from a variety of sources, including private donations, she said.

People can make contributions by writing a check to Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action and mailing it to 225 S. Steele St., Sanford, N.C.

Lee County Department of Senior Services

The Lee County Senior Services Department offers assistance with heating-related bills through the Helping Fund, according to Social Work Supervisor Tami Carter.

"The funds are based on contributions," she said. "We don't receive grant funds, so it is based on donations."

To qualify, a person has to be over the age of 60 and "in an emergency situation," Carter said.

"We generally help [more than] 200 people a year," she said. "We rely on the generosity of the community, and donations are very low right now." 

People can make a donation by writing a check to the Enrichment Center and mailing it to the attention of Tami Carter or the Helping Fund at 1615 S. Third St., Sanford, N.C.

Christians United Outreach Center of Lee County

CUOC can offer financial assistance to people who are behind with their rent, facing eviction or needing help to pay power bills, said Teresa Dew Kelly, executive director of the organization.

Residents must live within Lee County, experience a drastic change with regard to their finances and not be a previous recipient of financial assistance from CUOC to qualify.

"Our priority is the food needs," Kelly said. "At the rate we are having to purchase food, [the financial assistance] is our first program to go."

Kelly encouraged residents to consider donating to these energy-relief programs to prevent children from getting ready for school in the cold and to aid the elderly who are on fixed incomes.

"It is the giving season," she said. "We are asking people to open their hearts to the community. There are so many people still suffering with the economy. All of the nonprofits are doing the best they can, but they can't do it without the community's help."