ELLSWORTH, Maine — Multiple storms and record low temperatures this winter have left a local heating assistance fund completely depleted, giving a particular sense of urgency to an annual benefit to raise money for the fund.
Since Oct. 1, the Washington Hancock County Agency’s heating assistance fund has distributed $123,193 to households in need of emergency heating assistance, according to Susan Farley, a family assistance advocate. Between Jan. 1 and Jan. 8, the WHCA spent $60,000, which left the account dry.
“It’s heartbreaking when somebody calls for fuel assistance, and there aren’t any funds to help them,” Farley said.
Donors have contributed to the fund since early January, and those contributions are used up as quickly as they come in.
“A lot of people are coming to us for the first time this year,” Farley said, explaining that unusually cold temperatures this year have driven up the demand for fuel assistance. “They tried to budget but found themselves in an emergency situation.”
The WHCA offers fuel assistance usually once in a 12 month period to anyone with a need, no matter their income level. The money comes entirely from donations, Farley said.
Between Oct. 1, 2012, and Oct. 1, 2013, the WHCA distributed $173,000 to about 500 households. This year, with three months of winter to go, Farley said more than 300 households already have received assistance.
On Friday, Jan. 24, a concert to benefit the WHCA’s fund will be hosted by the Knights of Columbus at the Grand Auditorium. The show will feature performances by four local bands. Tickets are $15.
A wood pellet stove was donated and will be auctioned off at the event, according to representatives of the Knights of Columbus.
This is the third annual fundraiser the Knights of Columbus have organized for this cause. In previous years, the benefit raised $14,000 and $9,000 respectively. As of Monday afternoon, 200 of the 480 seats at the Grand had been sold, according to Walter Grenier, the Knights of Columbus community director.
“This is the biggest fundraiser of the year and it couldn’t come at a better time, especially since we’re going into some colder weather,” Farley said.