KNOX, Maine — Last winter, a grassroots effort to help struggling Waldo County folks stay warm raised an astonishing $11,130 that was spent on gifts of heating oil for 25 families.
Organizer and longtime English teacher Tanya Hubbard of Knox is not resting on her laurels, with hopes to raise even more money and help 50 families this winter through the Warm Waldo organization.
“It really made my heart glad last year when so many people chipped in to give,” she said this week. “Every single penny we raise goes into an oil tank.”
Hubbard said that the need she sees around Waldo County has not decreased over the last year — in fact, the opposite has been true.
“You see local families you know are struggling,” she said.
Last year, her “aha moment” came when she was waiting in line at a local pharmacy and the elderly woman ahead of her asked for her pills to be cut in half so that she could save enough money to make it through the winter. Hubbard was galvanized to take action, and soon her efforts attracted attention — first around the area, then the state and even the nation.
“Donations came in like crazy,” she said. “It was way more than I expected.”
People from all over sent amounts to Hubbard ranging from a $5 bill folded into a tiny square to a $100 bill with a note wrapped around it that said, simply, “Heat,” to even larger sums.
“It’s just so life-affirming,” she said last winter.
Money already has been coming in this fall, and two of her good friends are helping to lead the Warm Waldo fundraising efforts. They will be doing a bottle drive and will have a craft table at the annual Mount View High School Christmas Craft Fair.
“We’re not afraid to work for it,” she said.
Hubbard, who taught English for 38 years at Mount View High School, knows many people in the western portion of the county. And lots of the donations have been made by her former students who now live in far-flung parts of the country. A Mount View graduate now living in Texas recently made a very generous gift, she said.
“You reach that stage when if you can help, you should help,” Hubbard said. “I feel that everyone out there could make a small donation.”
In most cases, she aims at going to the needy family’s oil supplier and making a $500 gift to their account. The next person the charitable organization will help is an elderly woman from Belfast who has a terminal illness. This woman has been “paying it forward,” Hubbard said, by knitting 100 hat and mitten sets for local elementary schoolchildren.
“She’s a lovely lady,” the teacher said.
There’s more need — and hopefully more people who will dig deep into their pockets to give to the charity. Despite its success last year, Hubbard is still keeping the organizing structure simple. There’s an application process for people in need, but most of the referrals come from word of mouth. Donations are mailed to her and checks written out to her, and she takes people’s trust in her very seriously.
“We’re honest and we’re true,” she said.
While Hubbard is not helping her neighbors stay warm over the winter for the attention or any personal accolades she might receive, there is one thing she wouldn’t mind having, over and above money to help people in need.
“I would like to go on Ellen,” she said with a smile, referring to the syndicated talk show program, The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
To help with the Warm Waldo heating oil assistance campaign, checks can be written to Tanya Hubbard and sent to 54 Aborn Hill Road, Knox 04986. For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.