BROOKLIN — There are many warm hearts in this small coastal town, and they are working together to make sure their neighbors stay warm this winter.
A volunteer committee, working with the town’s Select Board, has raised more than $22,000 for a fund that provides emergency fuel assistance to residents who need it.
Although the Committee for a Warmer Town is administered through the town, it was started by a group of volunteers earlier this year when fuel oil prices had peaked.
“A group of about four or five people came in to the selectmen and said ‘there’s going to be a problem this winter; some people are not going to be able to afford it,” Selectman Albert Smith said Thursday. “They wanted to start a fund.”
It made sense for the town to be the conduit, Smith said. It’s tax-exempt and any donations are tax-exempt. But the town lacked the authority to start a fund without town meeting approval. So the selectmen scheduled a special town meeting — the first in recent memory — and the fund was created.
To kick off the effort, the volunteer committee set up a potluck supper at the elementary school. Country-western singer Wade Dow, a Brooklin resident, and his group performed and by the end of the evening, the event had raised about $3,200. The fund for a warmer town had some funds.
Recently, the minister at the Baptist church in town put together a concert that raised another $1,000 or so.
Committee members and the selectmen sent out letters using the town’s tax roll, seeking contributions to the fund.
“We were getting checks from California, Texas, Florida,” Smith said. “We used the tax roll, so people who have a summer home here also got the letters. We were getting contributions from all over the country.”
The town also applied for funding from the United Way that had established a challenge grant program for fuel assistance.
“We filled out the application, and, lo and behold, we got a check for $2,500,” Smith said.
At its peak, the fund totaled roughly $22,000, but with recent cold weather, the committee already has begun to spend some of that.
“We’re trying to provide help in a crisis,” he said. “It’s for people who have no place to go at that point.”
For long-term assistance, the committee will help people to work with other agencies who can provide heating fuel assistance, he said.
The group already has purchased three tanks of heating oil and is working with one homeowner to insulate the upstairs of a home.
“We’re going to buy the insulation, and people who work in the business are going to insulate their roof,” he said. “That’s the kind of things we’re doing.”
One of the nice things about the effort, Smith said, is that townspeople are now more aware of others who might be in need.
“People are very proud; they don’t like to ask for help,” he said. “We’re sort of a community watch group. If someone doesn’t look quite right, we just check up on them. None of those people we’ve helped came to us. We don’t wait for them to ask. People are just keeping an eye out for their neighbors.”
The Warmer Town Committee is still accepting donations to the fund. Checks can be made out to the town of Brooklin, and should note that they are for the Warmer Brooklin fund. Donations can be mailed to the town at PO Box 219, Brooklin 04616.