Heating Fund Fueling Hope for Families

By Jennifer Bray

On the last Friday in February, there was no snow on the ground in Wakefield, Rhode Island.

But a bitter wind was blowing. The wind chill factor in South County was a frosty 26 degrees with wind gusts as high as 23 miles per hour.

And for some families, the harsh New England winters force them to make difficult decisions.

“There is a misconception that because we haven’t had a lot of snow this winter that it’s been a warm winter,” said Ed White, Executive Director of The National Grid Foundation. “We never want families to have to choose whether they have heat or eat.”

Thanks to the Keep the Heat On (KTHO) Program, sponsored by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, under Catholic Social Services of Rhode Island, more families are staying warm.

Since 2005, KTHO has been helping families and individuals pay their heating bills when all other forms of public and private assistance have been exhausted. To date, the fund has helped more than 9,500 Rhode Islanders stay warm through more than $3.2 million in donations.

For the past six years, The National Grid Foundation has been a major funder of Keep the Heat On.

“We have deserving families that don’t want to make a choice between having food on the table or keeping the house warm, this is what The National Grid Foundation is able to provide,” said Jim Jahnz, Supervisor of Catholic Social Services of RI for the Diocese of Providence.

On Friday, The National Grid Foundation presented $100,000 to the Keep the Heat On program at an event at the St. Francis of Assisi Church in Wakefield.

“The National Grid Foundation is a great partner that has helped thousands of families throughout the entire state because of this fund,” said Jahnz.

Richard Haverly is one of the local recipients who’s being helped by the KTHO program. He and his girlfriend both work hard. “We were chugging along and trying to make ends meet,” he said. But they ran into tough times, trying to pay mounting bills for their young children. They were able to move into a house but couldn’t afford the oil heat to keep it warm.

“This has been great to have this program,” said Haverly. “It’s been a blessing to have any help at all.”

Lisa Cooley is an intake worker for Catholic Charities. She was the person that got Richard and his family the help they needed. “Every day we have many calls for assistance and people are in all different situations,” Cooley said.

Richard said this has been a humbling experience. “People get stuck and they don’t know where to go, it’s incredible that we’ve found people willing to help us.”